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New Jewish center to pump $5M into local economy

Gov. García-Padilla and Rabi Mendel Zarchi break ground on the new center.

Gov. García-Padilla and Rabi Mendel Zarchi break ground on the future Jewish center.

The construction of a Chabad Jewish Center in Isla Verde will inject $5 million into the local economy and create 50 direct and indirect jobs, Gov. Alejandro García-Padilla said Tuesday at the groundbreaking for the project.

The Center, which will house a Synagogue along with other facilities, is sure to become a magnet for Jewish tourists visiting the island and will boost tourism, said the governor of Puerto Rico.

“We are more than grateful for what (this center) represents for our island in this period of economic recovery,” he said at the ceremony, which was attended by members of the local Jewish community and government officials, including Tourism Company Executive Director Ingrid Rivera-Rocafort.

In addition to a synagogue, the center will house a social salon, a commercial kitchen, a rituals bath or Mikvah, classrooms and offices.

The two-story building, with a total floor area in excess of 10,800 square feet, begins construction this month with completion scheduled in 15 months, in 2015.

Of the many branches of Judaism, the three represented in Puerto Rico are Reform, Conservative, and Chabad, each one with its own temple.

Rabbi Levi Stein said Chabad of Puerto Rico, which has been serving the local community and visitors since 1999, currently works out of a Dalia St. building in Isla Verde, close to where the new center will be.

Stein said that a campaign to raise funds for the project began four years ago and so far has raised much, though not all, of the $5 million that are needed. The campaign will continue to raise the remaining funding, she said.

“This is the first synagogue built in Puerto Rico from scratch,” said Shula Feldkran, president of the Reform Jewish Congregation whose synagogue is located on San Jorge St., off Loiza St. “Ours was once a bar.”

The synagogue of the conservative denomination is located at the Jewish Community Center in Miramar in a repurposed building.

Architect Irv Weiner designed the new Chabad Jewish Center in collaboration with the architectural firm of Marvel & Marchand, and the Gutierrez Latimer construction firm.

Chabad of P.R. is part of the biggest Jewish organization in the world with more than 5,000 centers in more than 82 countries. Stein said the new center would become the headquarters for Chabad in the Caribbean.


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