Tuesday, September 27, 2005

$9 million synagogue breaks ground

חדשות חב"ד

$9 million synagogue breaks ground

(Chicago Sun-Times) It was once the site of a movie theater that played films like "Halloween 6" and "Speed 2." Before that it was an Art Deco Post Office and now it's an empty lot -- but not for long.

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Thursday at the corner of Chestnut and Clark Streets for the Center for Jewish Life, a $9 million synagogue and community center that will be run by the orthodox Lubavitch Chabad.
Unlike other orthodox Jewish sects, which generally keep to themselves, the Lubavitchers see it as their mission to reach out to other Jews and encourage them to become more religious and observe traditional rituals.

They believe the center, which will have a synagogue, ritual baths, counseling, day care, a holistic health center, a kosher cafe and religious classes for adults and children, will help them to fulfill that mission.
(Continued in full article)

"This is an edifice that will bring life and light, it will have programming that will bring goodness and kindness, education and productivity to the whole neighborhood and to the whole city," said Rabbi Meier Chai Benhiyoun.

Since 1987, Benhiyoun has been leading his congregation from rented quarters in the Loop, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. As his followers grew in numbers, he began seeking a permanent home and acquired the land for the new center in 2000 for $2.6 million.

Now, he expects the first phase of the center, designed by architect Daniel Coffey, to be completed within the next year and a half. There is room in the plans for an expansion that would cost another $9 million.

The Lubavitch men wear beards, big fedora hats and long black coats. But they say they don't pressure other Jews to be like them. "Our approach is open and inclusive," said Benhiyoun. Non-Jews are welcomed and some attend Lubavitch classes, but they are not encouraged to convert.

Hardware merchant Bernie Turek is a major financial supporter of the new center, but like some others backing the effort, he does not consider himself an orthodox Jew. "I'm not observant, but I'm helping them financially and I love what they do."

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