Members of the Chabad of Fairfield community describe the center as a warm, welcoming place. Now they’re undertaking a project to have that inner atmosphere match the outside.
The project — Chabad is hoping to raise $400,000 to pay for it — includes a new plaza that will serve as an outdoor gathering spot, repaving, sidewalks, improved access, safety features, beautification and landscaping.
“It’s something that will benefit not only the Jewish community, but the larger Lake Hills community,” said Rabbi Shlame Landa.
Though the improvement project has been planned since the group bought the old Elks Lodge on Brookside Drive in 2015, the burgeoning interest in Chabad of Fairfield makes the timing even more important, Landa said.
One-on-one experiences and building connections have always been an important part of Chabad, but the pandemic showed the need even more and so they really focused on it, he said.
“Everybody wants personal interaction,” he said. “That’s what we’re missing.”
He said people turned to Chabad as a way to find that personal interaction, either through online programs and services or in person safely outside, especially around the high holy days last fall and Hanukkah in December.
Most recently, Landa said they delivered about 300 baskets for Purim, up from the 200 they normally would have delivered pre-pandemic.
Landa credits the growth to personal interactions, coupled with more families moving to the area.
At one point during the pandemic, Chabad was getting about 10 calls a week from people moving to the area looking to get involved, he said.
“That’s a lot more than we had in the past,” he said.
Landa said he doesn’t expect the interest to go away once the pandemic is over. People are looking to the light at the end of the tunnel — when they can gather again as they used to.
“The future is bright and we’re only going to get brighter,” Landa said.
The project is expected to be completed by June, hopefully as the state continues to open up.
It also coincides with the expiration of the zoning approval Chabad got in 2016.
The equipment is ready to go as soon as the money is raised.
“We’re not wasting any time,” Landa said.
Chabad is currently collecting donations to get to the $400,000 goal. A matching campaign will kickoff on Rallybound.com, with several community members matching up to $200,000 in donations from Monday through Thursday.
“It’s an exciting opportunity,” Landa said.
People will still be able to donate after that, he said.
Jon Slavin, who is co-chairing the campaign and lives in the neighborhood, said the project will help show the community what Chabad is about.
“Chabad is a warm, inclusive, nonjudgmental place,” Slavin said. “Our message is really to get people to understand the real face of Chabad. If we can have the exterior of the building and landscaping match the interior, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
He and Landa said they expect the project to be welcomed by the rest of the neighborhood.
“We love this community and we look forward to take it one step further with the beautification,” Landa said.