Santa Fe New Mexican
The Chabad Jewish Center of Santa Fe has scrapped its plans to build a new facility on its own land and has decided, instead, to remodel a downtown building into a new Center for Jewish Living, complete with a commercial kosher kitchen and cafe.
The center will be housed in a 16,000-square-foot, three-story building at 230 W. Manhattan Ave., formerly the home of the State Engineer’s Office. The Chabad Center paid about $1.8 million for the building about a month ago.
Rabbi Berel Levertov said the building was purchased from a Holocaust survivor who wished to remain anonymous but was delighted that the structure would become a Center for Jewish Living.
The Chabad Center had planned to build its new living center on property it owns at the corner of Galisteo Street and San Mateo Road, and had even rented temporary quarters elsewhere and held a groundbreaking for the project last spring.
But, Levertov said Tuesday, “the price of building went up, and this was such an opportunity we switched gears at the last minute. We start demolition next week. As far as I understand, it will be the first commercial kosher kitchen in Santa Fe.”
Levertov said the building is “a prime location” for the planned Center for Jewish Living because it’s in the heart of the city’s business and tourist areas and not tucked away in a residential neighborhood.
Levertov said the central location — near the Plaza and just a few streets from the historic Guadalupe District — will make it easier to reach out to nonmembers and visitors to the city.
“People could stop in and have some kosher food and cup of coffee or talk to the rabbi,” Levertov said. He said the center’s sanctuary will be on the building’s first floor, and a social hall and kitchen will be on the second floor. He said the center also will have an art gallery, classrooms, a library and a study room.
Levertov said the center has budgeted $3.1 million for the project, which includes the building purchase.
Levertov and his wife, Devorah Leah Levertov, and their two small children moved to Santa Fe from Brooklyn, N.Y., 18 years ago to start the Chabad Jewish Center and further its mission to inspire people to live a more meaningful life, “and to encourage Jews particularly and people in general to be more involved in spiritual life and goodness and kindness in the world,” he said.
Now, at 45, he’s the most senior rabbi in town and the father of six children.
“We came out here and put down roots and raised a family,” he said. “We consider ourselves very local. We’ve become part of the Santa Fe scene.”
In addition to charitable work, the Chabad Jewish Center hosts the annual Hanukkah on the Plaza event, which includes refreshments and the public lighting of a giant menorah. The rabbi was asked to give an invocation at Mayor Javier Gonzales’ State of the City address Tuesday.
Levertov estimates there are 3,000 to 4,000 Jews in Santa Fe, and about 150 of them regularly attend services at the Chabad Center.
“We’re very happy with what we’ve accomplished but want to grow the congregation, do more events, inspire more people,” Levertov said Tuesday. “There is always more to do.”
The Chabad Center is celebrating its 18th year in Santa Fe with a gala Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Eldorado Hotel. The event also will be a fundraiser for the living center project.
Levertov’s son Mendel Levertov, who was just a baby when his parents came to Santa Fe and is now 18, has taken a break from studying in Israel to come home and mark the occasion with his family, his father said.
Father and son visited the new building armed with a staple gun Tuesday afternoon to mount mezuzahs — scrolls inscribed with verses from the Torah — on the front and back doors.
The rabbi’s son said the scrolls are a reminder that “God’s the boss here.”