Chabad House of Monroe expects to break ground this spring on a 20,000-square-foot Jewish community center on a 3.5-acre site on Applegarth Road.
The new $2.5 million, two-story building will house a synagogue, areas for senior and youth activities, a social hall for up to 400 people, classrooms, and the Everything Jewish Judaica store now operated by its rabbi, Yehuda Spritzer, in the Concordia Shopping Center.
“This is a sign that Judaism is alive and well and is progressing in Monroe,” said Spritzer.
Chabad House of Monroe purchased the wooded site last year and received unanimous approval from the Monroe Township Zoning Board of Adjustment several months ago. It still must receive site plan approval from the board, expected within the coming month, according to Spritzer.
The center belongs to one of two main groupings in New Jersey of followers of the Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic movement, which is committed to providing ritual and educational outreach to both Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews.
“I’ve wanted to do this since I came down here,” said the rabbi, who came to Monroe four years ago. “The community is becoming more diverse. More young people are moving in, and it has become a necessity to have a community center for youth, to have a space to do counseling. Also we’re now paying rent for the Judaica store, so we’ll be moving that also.”
The purpose of the store, he said, is “not so much the money it doesn’t make,” said Spritzer. The reason he opened Everything Jewish “was to bring more Judaism to the community. A lot of people come in and ask me questions.”
Currently the Chabad conducts an early-morning minyan, or prayer service, at the Jewish Congregation of Concordia, whose membership comprises seniors from the seven adult communities in Monroe. The Conservative congregation is also housed at the Concordia Shopping Center. Spritzer also holds services the first Saturday of each month at his Kelly Court home.
“I read Torah at the [Concordia] congregation to help them out,” said Spritzer. “I told them we were looking to expand Judaism in town, not take it away from anyone.”
Spritzer’s Chabad House of Monroe is an affiliate of Chabad House Lubavitch Inc. of Central New Jersey.
Etz Chaim’s rabbi, Benjamin Levy, said he was not aware of the expansion but welcomed the move.
“Good for him,” said Levy. “I think there’s a large Jewish community here that needs to be served, and this is helping with that need. There’s room enough for everybody. This just adds to the overall strength of the Jewish community in Monroe. If this Jewish center offers something a little different, it just speaks to the diversity of the Jewish community.”
Spritzer said the facility is desperately needed by his Chabad center, which has had trouble in the past finding facilities large enough to accommodate its events.
“Last year during Purim we needed a place to hold our event, and for technical reasons couldn’t get the high school,” recalled Spritzer. “We had to use the middle school and nearly created a fire hazard. We had close to 400 people. I realized then we needed a place of our own.”
The Applegarth site, across from Renaissance Crossing, was purchased for $530,000 with the help of a last-minute, “six-figure” contribution from a donor whom Spritzer declined to name, He said that the center maintains a mortgage on the site.
“Every day since this began has been a miracle,” said Spritzer, who is now raising funds for construction of the building, which was designed by architect James Gaspari of North Brunswick.
The Chabad Building Fund Committee is scheduling fund-raising events, most recently the Chanukah Lights and Music benefit concert performed by the Clearbrook Mandolin Ensemble at Monroe Township High School in December.
Spritzer spends Mondays as chaplain at Southern State and Bayside state prisons in Leesburg in Cumberland County and at Riverfront State Prison in Camden.
Spritzer also holds Chabad classes in Kabala and Talmud and a women’s class. In addition, he sings and plays guitar for residents during visits to area assisted-living facilities. He and his wife, Rechie — a Maplewood native whom he credits with luring him to New Jersey from his native Brooklyn — have four children, ages seven, five, two, and one.
“We hope to get the community’s continued support,” said Spritzer. Whether people give “$18 or $18,000, it helps out with a building they can show their children and grandchildren.”
7:31 PM in New Brunswick, NJ
Shabbat Ends 8:33 PM
Friday, 26 April 2019