A celebration of the new Chabad Gellman-Kaplan Center for Jewish Life attracted hundreds from across Orange County and beyond for the grand opening and ribbon cutting of the new Chabad campus.
The $4 million dollar 10,000 square foot facility rests atop a hill in Monroe, NY, with scenic views. Set on seven acres of land, the campus consists of a spacious synagogue and social hall to accommodate 200 guests, teen and youth lounge, children’s classrooms, kosher commercial kitchen, entrance lobby, Jewish library, offices, a staff guest suite and pergola terrace. Multiple grass areas provide space for outdoor events and recreation, and Chabad plans on a future playground.
Chabad of Orange County, directed by Rabbi Pesach and Chana Burston, was established 18 years ago. The Burstons were sent by Chabad Lubavitch World Headquarters as representatives and spiritual leaders to serve the Orange County Jewish community. Located close to the Route 17 highway, the new Jewish center is easily accessible from areas like Woodbury, Goshen, Middletown and Warwick.
Elected officials participated in the ceremony including Monroe Village Mayor Neil Dwyer and trustee John Carl, Monroe Town Supervisor Tony Cardone, Councilwomen Dorey Houle, Judge Carol Klein and Assemblyman Colin Schmitt.
Live music by the Yochai Band, gourmet kosher cuisine, desserts, High Holiday activities and an interactive pop art experience were part of the celebration.
“For 18 years we built a community; we just did not have a house to put it in,” said Rabbi Pesach. “Now, on this hill which we call the ‘Temple Mount’ we have a permanent home. We look forward to this new center being a beacon of light, joy and peace for the Jewish community of Orange County.” he said.
The ribbon cutting was followed by dancing and celebration. Community member Elias Muhlrad recited the blessing and affixed the Jerusalem stone Mezuzah to the entry door.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, addressed the audience. Also in attendance was international JLI director Ephraim Mintz, and many neighboring Chabad emissaries.
Hundreds of generous supporters contributed to this project, and permanent plaques will be displayed to recognize and thank supporters. Building naming honorees Aaron and Shifra Gellman were honored with a presentation and gift. The building is a tribute in memory of their parents, Jack and Elizabeth Gellman and David and Beatrice Kaplan.
Chabad Visionary supporters were recognized – Elias and Tawnya Muhlrad of Goshen, Dr. Pinny and Sonia Young of Buffalo and Tzvi and Simmie Gellman. As recognition for gifts of over $25k, twenty supporters received a crystal plaque with a 3D image of the building.
The Shofar (ram’s horn) was blown by Tzvi Gellman for the crowd in preparation for the High Holidays.
A colorful flair was added to the two foot high “Cup of Overflowing Blessings” interactive Pop-Art Sculpture. Led by the “Pop Art Rabbi” Yitzchok Moully, guests had the opportunity to paint the sculpture, which will remain as a symbol of community at the new center.
“Each community member, from the babies in Mommy & Me, to our senior citizens – adds magnificent color, talent and individuality to the beautiful community we create together,” said Chana Burston, as she introduced the interactive Pop Art sculpture.
“This Cup of Overflowing Blessings will be displayed at Chabad, representing how we come together with all of our different flavors, into a family of harmony and kindness. May our cups always overflow.” said Chana.
The event continued with a High Holiday Fair with educational experts leading each workshop. Rabbi Morgenstern of Chabad of New City led children of all ages in a “Shofar Factory ‘’ as they sawed and sanded a ram’s horn, known as a Shofar, a sacred item used on Rosh Hashanah.
Chabad of Orange County’s services reached over 1500 people in 2022, and continues to grow and expand. Chabad offers a full range of services and programs catered for all ages and interests.