By Anash.org reporter
800 people came out on Sunday to celebrate the grand opening of the Epstein Family Chabad Center for Jewish Life, a magnificent new building on Chabad of Charlotte‘s Sardis Road campus.
“We are entering our 40th year on shlichus,” Rabbi Yossi Groner, head shliach to the Carolinas told Anash.org. “It’s brought together a vision and a dream that we’ve had for a very long time. For people who were there with us from the beginning, it was an unbelievable moment.”
The campus houses Congregation Ohr HaTorah, the Jewish Preschool on Sardis, and the Friendship Circle. In addition to the beautiful main sanctuary, the new center features a grand multipurpose ballroom and a junior congregation/weekday shul. It will host daily minyanim, JLI classes, and programs serving all ages.
A prominent addition to the campus is an elaborate, fully outfitted commercial kitchen. Kosher options in Charlotte are limited, so Chabad created its own catering option headed by Rabbi Menachem Vorst, or “Kosher Guy” as he’s affectionately known.
Kosher catering has been available for individuals and small events from the Jewish day school’s kitchen for some time. Now, however, Charlotte’s Kosher consumers can acquire services of a totally different caliber. A grand kosher banquet can be brought to their venue of choice, or they can opt for an all inclusive package with the use of Chabad’s tastefully adorned ballroom.
Rabbi Vorst’s first grand-scale project was serving up an exquisite gourmet menu for 800 people at Sunday’s affair.
Master of Ceremonies Mendy Pellin introduced the “Faces of Chabad,” interviewing a student of the Jewish Preschool on Sardis, a Cteen activist, a journalist who found his connection through JLI classes, and others. “The theme of the evening was that every Yid can find a portal to Yiddishkeit through Chabad,” Rabbi Groner said.
The Epstein center is more than a building; the building is a body, but there’s a neshomo within it that was strongly felt on Sunday.
“The building was built in a way that invites an atmosphere of davening and learning,” Rabbi Groner explained. “When people walk into the lobby, they’re embraced by the pictures of the Rebbeim, and the words v’asu li mikdash; they feel that this is a place of ruchniusdik growth, a truly sacred space.”
According to Rabbi Groner, this was achieved through the vision of community members who have been with Chabad of Charlotte for many years. “They worked with architects and designers, and created this building based on years of what they experienced here. It is very functional, but also very elegant. And it is undoubtedly spiritual.”
The new building added 20,000 square feet to the 15,000 that were already in use on the campus. Dedicated by Mr. Chris (Chaim) Epstein, it is named as a tribute to his grandfather from whom he learned so much. The Levine Sanctuary was dedicated on Sunday as well, by Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Julie Levine.
“The donors were overjoyed,” Rabbi Groner said. “It was a moment of true elation.”