Chabad on the Palisades will break ground Sunday on a 3′,000-foot extension of its facility in downtown Tenafly, largely thanks to a multimillion-dollar bequest from a Tenafly businessman.
Rabbi Mordechai Shain, executive director of Chabad on the Palisades, expects construction to last up to one year and cost between $10 million and $1′ million. Plans for the expansion of the Beth Aharon Forem Chabad House began almost three years ago but received a push when congregant Herman Stern, who died in ‘005, bequeathed his entire estate to the organization. The bequest still needs to be tallied and go through some legal processes, which, Shain said, could take several years.
"He was involved in the Chabad house and the shul. He’d been helping us constantly," Shain said of Stern. The center’s current sanctuary, built nine years ago, was dedicated to the memory of Stern’s parents. Dedicating the new sanctuary in his memory is "very appropriate" because of this and Stern’s past involvement, Shain said.
Rabbi Mordechai Shain points to the area next to the Tenafly Chabad house where the new addition will be built. Photo Credit: Josh Lipowsky
The inheritance is rumored to be between $30 million and $40 million, but Shain would not be specific, beyond acknowledging that it was at least "a few million." Some money has already been realized from the inheritance, which will go toward the expansion, although Shain would not say how much. Donations from the community will also help fund the renovation.
"Everyone will pitch in. Everyone has to give what they can afford, as long as they could give something," Shain said. "God has all the money. If you just open your hands, He supplies it and hopefully puts it into your bank account."
Once completed, the new addition will feature 10 new classrooms, a 4,000 square-foot sanctuary, a 4,000 square-foot social room, a new teen center that can hold up to 300 people, new libraries, and a 6,000 square-foot playground on the center’s roof. As the new sections are completed, Chabad will move in so the older areas can be renovated and attached to the new.
The playground on the roof will be a beautiful addition to the building and provide added security, Shain said. It will also eliminate worries about the children running outside or into the street.
Alan Litt of J.H. Mack in Teaneck is the contractor leading the project. Work will begin on the foundation Oct. 3 and should be completed by November, Shain said. Part of the parking lot will be torn up to provide the space needed for construction.
Construction will take place in three phases, Shain said. The foundation will be built first, to get the new structure started. The second phase calls for knocking down parts of the current sanctuary and social hall in order to merge them with the new wing. Lastly, the existing classrooms and nursery school will be redesigned to make them more efficient.
"I see this being a center of Judaism for any need," Shain said, "whether you’re a child, teenager, adult, single, married, or a senior. This will cover everything they need."
The new center will reach beyond the Jewish community though and offer itself to Tenafly as a new "safe haven." The renovation plans include a $300,000 electrical generator to keep the center running in case of long power failures, like the one two weeks ago caused by the remains of Hurricane Ernesto.
"This will be a safe haven for every one in town," Shain said. "I just hope this will be enough."
Space for emergency services isn’t Shain’s only concern. High Holy Day services at Chabad draw hundreds of people, who fit into the current sanctuary "like sardines," Shain said, which is why he feels the expansion may not be big enough. Rather, it will give Chabad the space it needs to maintain its current numbers.
More than 150 children attend Chabad’s twice-weekly Hebrew school, while more than 140 are enrolled in the nursery school. The Friendship Circle for teenagers draws about 150 each week.
"It should suffice, but will still be too small," Shain said.
Tenafly’s Mayor Peter Rustin says he is pleased about the new expansion because of Chabad’s contributions to the town.
"From the moment I first met Rabbi Shain and [youth director] Rabbi Chaim [Boyarsky], one of their immediate missions was to become part of the community and do public service," Rustin said. "It’s just a tremendous asset for the community. Tenafly is very fortunate."
The groundbreaking will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the Chabad house in Tenafly. For more information, call (’01) 871-115′.