As Rosh Hashanah approached, Chani Kaplan was busy catering for New Year’s meals for 250 on Vancouver Island, all prepared out of her small home kitchen.
She and Rabbi Meir Kaplan, who head up the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life and Learning on Vancouver Island, are praying that by next year at this time, their brand new 10,000-square-foot building at 2955 Glasgow St. in Victoria will be up and running. It would be, they say, the first new shul in Victoria in 150 years.
“We need a permanent place for Chabad on the island,” Rabbi Kaplan said. “We’ve been serving the community for 12 years, and we need the stability of a permanent space, with a commercial kitchen, a new mikvah and classrooms for preschool, Hebrew school and adult learning.”
For now, Chabad is in a temporary location in downtown Victoria, where it draws hundreds of families for events and services and has a mailing list of 1,000 families, Rabbi Kaplan said.
Chabad’s preschool is already open, with 30 kids.
“This is not a question of build it and they will come,” Rabbi Kaplan said. “They’re here. Now we need to build it.”
Fundraising efforts for the new Chabad Centre started two years ago, and so far $1.5 million has been raised, and the land for the site has been paid for. Rabbi Kaplan plans to raise the remaining $2 million on the island and hopes some support from outside Vancouver Island will be forthcoming, too.
He’s also hoping the new building will receive matching government grants to cover security cameras.
If everything goes according to plan, construction will begin next month and be completed by next August, which means Rosh Hashanah services next year would be held in a newly opened building.
Late last month, some 250 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony, including Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and other local politicians and MLAs, such as Green party Leader Elizabeth May, NDP MPs Murray Rankin and Randall Garrison and NDP MLA Gary Holman.
The new building will be centrally located, both for those who live in Victoria and those on the island’s outskirts.
“It’s next to one of the biggest parks in the area, with a playground for kids and a soccer field,” he added. “That will be a tremendous asset for summer camps and Hebrew school, to have this amazing outdoor space adjacent to our building.”
Leon Zetler, owner of Aubergine Specialty Foods in Victoria, was among the donors and is one of the founding members of the centre. “Chabad has brought many fantastic benefits to Vancouver Island, and investing in Chabad is, in my mind, investing in our Jewish values and our future. The centre will be with us for the rest of our lives, and I strongly encourage other Jewish folks on the island to donate to this wonderful cause.”