Chabad North Orlando has a new shul, and it's only the beginning
"Our first event was Rosh Hashanah services at the Courtyard Marriott in Lake Mary and we did not have a Minyan," remembered Rabbi Yanky Majesky of Chabad North Orlando. "We moved to town and did not know a soul."
Now five years later, Chabad in Lake Mary has several hundred members who attend the High Holiday services at the Westin Lake Mary.
A lot has changed in the last few years. "The growth has been beyond our wildest dreams," added the rabbi. "We have seen the hand of Hashem every step of the way," said Chanshy Majesky, co-director of Chabad.
For the first year there was a Friday night service only once a month in hotels around Lake Mary. One day Rabbi Majesky met Steve and Dawn Chamu who had recently just happened to have opened an office in walking distance to the rabbi's home.
"What can I do for you, Rabbi? asked Chamu.
"If you really want to know, we need a shul."
To the rabbi's surprise Chamu responded, "You got it." And within a few weeks, the Chamu Jewish Center opened its doors. The monthly Shabbat services moved into the shul and so did the small Hebrew school.
Within a short period of time, the community grew to having services every Shabbos and Yom Tov.
"Chabad is much more than a shul," explained Rabbi Majesky. "We offer Judaism a la carte-and invite all members of the community regardless of affiliation, background or level of knowledge to embrace their heritage on the level they are most comfortable."
In addition to Hebrew School and religious services, Chabad in Lake Mary offers Jewish Learning Institute adult education courses, teen programs, monthly woman's events, guest speakers, special holiday programs and events for children.
"The wide array of our programs allows Jews on every level of observance to participate in the community on some level," explained Chanshy. "We don't charge membership because every Jew is a member and no one is ever turned away due to lack of funds," she added.
There are five Chabad centers in metro Orlando and each one focuses exclusively on its geographic area. Rabbi and Mrs. Dubov founded Chabad in Orlando 30 years ago and with the growth of the community they have brought down other Chabad rabbis to focus on other parts of town. Rabbi and Mrs. Lipskier run the Chabad at UCF, Rabbi and Mrs. Konikov in South Orlando, Rabbi Levik Dubov recently opened Chabad of Downtown for young professionals and Rabbi Yanky and Chanshy Majesky focus on the Lake Mary area.
There is a saying: Build it and they will come. In the case of the Lake Mary Chabad, they came-it was time to build it. Seeing all the exciting growth and activities, a local donor who wants to remain anonymous stepped forward with a check of $100,000 kicking off the building fund. "We are forever grateful to the donor for planting the seeds of our growing community and their ongoing and increased support," said Majesky.
The community came together in the most amazing way to raise a half million dollars to build a new shul. Most donations were relatively small and under $500 but in the spirit of Chabad, everyone did what they could to make it happen.
The community is very grateful to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky of Merkos L'Iniyanei Chinuch who facilitated a grant from philanthropists Moshe and Lilian Tabacinic to get on board with this project.
"Rabbi Kotlarsky is busy with Jewish communities all over the world and yet he made the time to speak and take care of our little suburban community," said Majesky. "We are overwhelmed by the kindness of the Tabacinic family," he added.
The new shul is located at 1701 Markham Woods Rd. and will host the regular services and classes but the community will still be going to the Westin Lake Mary for the High Holidays and larger events throughout the year as the new facility cannot accommodate the growing crowd.
"Cannot accommodate them YET," said Chanshy with a smile. "This facility is only the beginning. With Hashem's help we will purchase additional land and build a larger facility hopefully sooner then later," she explained.
To participate in the building fund and to find out more details on the project you can visit www.JewishNorthOrlando.com/Building. There are dedication opportunities available and the rabbi is happy to meet and give a private tour to any potential donors.