Chabad leaders’ vision for a Jewish Community Center at 2174 Hewlett Ave., neighboring the newly renovated Merrick Mall Stop & Shop, is becoming a reality.
Rabbi Shimon Kramer, who heads the Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Merrick, Bellmore and Wantagh, last Friday gave the Herald Life a tour of the building, long home to the Merrick Professional Centre. Multiple areas that once comprised offices are now gutted. Sawdust flew as workers began reconstructing one room that will eventually house a “mikvah,” or ritual bath. Other spaces will soon transform into classrooms, a library, a multi-purpose room, a kitchen and more.
Chabad, a Hasidic nonprofit organization, bought 2174 Hewlett Ave., a 24,380-square-foot office building, in December 2011 for $2.75 million. (Kramer said the Community Center will occupy about a third of the building, and that the Merrick Professional Centre’s 15 or tenants plan to stay.) Once construction of the Community Center is complete, the local Chabad will be able to provide more services to a greater number of people than in the past nine years, during which Kramer and his wife, Chanie, have run it out of their Merrick Woods home.
The work’s present phase — redoing two sections of the building as a Jewish Early Learning Center, community mikvah, multi-purpose room, Judaic library, study hall and the Setton Family Kosher Soup & Food Pantry — will cost $800,000, Kramer estimated. He said the Learning Center’s two classrooms will each serve about 20 preschoolers and be complete in about a month. The mikvah will boast a spa-like atmosphere and be complete in about six months, he said.
“The needs and demands of the community” drive the services Chabad offers, Kramer said. Several current and planned programs, like Circle of Hope, a support group for women coping with breast cancer and their families, and deliveries of meals to seniors, are non-denominational, he pointed out.
“We don’t ask hungry people what their religion is,” Kramer said.