Some might have called it a Chanukah miracle, but it didn’t happen around Chanukah. Others might have attributed it to the auspiciousness of the month of Adar, but it happened before either Adar this year, and we’ve got two. If you ask Rabbi Mendy and Esty Gurkov, they will tell you that it indeed was a miracle but that it happened exactly when it was supposed to happen.
Thanks to tremendous growth, the Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Upper Passaic County had outgrown the space they were renting in the Haskell Town Shopping Center. In fact, they moved three times within the mall but kept outgrowing the spaces. “The owners really treated us nicely,” Rabbi Gurkov shared, “but there wasn’t this feeling of permanency, and the community really wanted a building of our own. In October, a tremendous miracle happened. A local non-denominational church reached out to us, expressing interest in selling their building to us. Our center had been looking at properties for a permanent home, and this presented a great opportunity. From start to finish the whole process took three and a half months, and the Chabad Center for Jewish Life has a permanent home!”
To further demonstrate the rightness of it all, although renovations are needed to fit their needs, the building was move-in ready. They closed on January 22, and the following week they held their first Shabbat services and launched the Hebrew School the week after.
Seven years ago, the Gurkovs moved to Wanaque to open a Chabad Jewish Center serving the North Passaic County area. As Rabbi Gurkov told The Jewish Link, “We realized there were many Jewish people living in the area, but there wasn’t much in terms of Judaism.” The Gurkovs began by bringing Jewish pride and awareness through a host of different programs and events throughout the year.
“When we moved to the area, on the surface it’s not a very Jewish area. Our center has created a vibrant, dynamic and flourishing community. There are currently a few hundred families who consider themselves part of our shul, and that number is constantly growing,” said Rabbi Gurkov.
The Gurkovs hope for continued growth and see the purchase of a new center as the next step. They are now centrally located on Ringwood Avenue with great visibility. People are stopping by, and Channel 12 recently aired a segment about the new building. There’s a lot of excitement swirling around the 10,000 square foot property with 80 parking spaces. They’ve got a spacious sanctuary, classrooms, a social hall that can accommodate parties and events (the first bar and bat mitzvahs have already been booked) and they haven’t even touched the second floor yet. A community Purim party, themed “Purim in the 60s” will be held at the new center on Thursday, March 21.
Plans are underway for an official opening ceremony, and the gala dinner, celebrating Expanding Horizons, is fast approaching on April 9 at the Legacy Castle. For more information about the Chabad Center for Jewish Life of Upper Passaic County, visit JewishHighlands.org or call 201-696-7609.
By Sara Kosowsky Gross