The local Jewish community is expanding at a rapid pace. In fact, the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York found that 7,900 Jews moved to Merrick, Bellmore, East Meadow and Massapequa from 2002 to 2011 — the largest Jewish population increase in south Nassau communities in the past nine years.
Leaders of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Bellmore-Merrick and Wantagh — a nonprofit organization that provides social assistance and spiritual enrichment for Jewish people — have seen the community expand firsthand. More and more local residents attend the group’s religious and social programs, enroll their children in its preschool and day care centers and call to ask about its services.
Since Rabbi Shimon Kramer and his wife, Chanie, founded the local Chabad in 2006, the couple (with the help of volunteers) have held events in either rented or borrowed rooms or their house in Merrick. In recent years, Rabbi Kramer said, it became clear that the group needs a larger facility.
And so Chabad plans to build a community center in downtown Merrick, beside a newly refurbished Stop & Shop.
“We were approached by friends in the community who shared our vision of creating a place –– a community center –– where all the diverse programs, services and activities of our growing community can come together, a home where people feel welcome…,” he said. “It was our vision to establish a center to serve the material, spiritual and social needs of the Jewish community, to connect each individual, regardless of commitment and background.”
Chabad purchased the 24,380-square-foot office building at 2174 Hewlett Ave. in Merrick for $2.75 million in December 2011. Donors provided $1.75 million; the rest was mortgaged. A fund-raising campaign and construction are now under way to complete the Chabad Jewish Community Center.
‘A place for everyone’
The center will offer various educational programs and social services, catering to local residents of all ages and from all walks of life, the Kramers said. They include: