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Chabad at Stony Brook

The new Village Chabad is on Nicolls Road in East Setauket. Photo by Stacey Heber

With decades of history in the Three Village area, a religious organization is ready to flourish in a new venue.

A view of the front entrance of the new Village Chabad on Nicolls Road. Photo by Stacey Heber

Nestled on Nicolls Road, a new building designed by Natalie Weinstein & Associates of St James is near completion for Chabad at Stony Brook which currently works out of Lake Grove. A ribbon cutting will be held June 23 to mark the beginning of a new era for the organization with a larger home for those it serves to gather in, along with a new moniker — Village Chabad.

The original name, Chabad at Stony Brook, came about 32 years ago when Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum and Rivkie Grossbaum, co-directors, moved from New Jersey and first worked with Stony Brook University students. Soon, the Chabad services extended beyond the school and into the Three Village community and surrounding areas, with a synagogue, preschool, Hebrew and elementary schools, activities for children and adult education.

“Thirty-two years ago, it started with the university, but over the years it developed into a vast array of broad programming,” said Grossbaum’s son Rabbi Motti Grossbaum, program director.

During a recent tour of the new building, the Grossbaums, who provide services with Rabbi Shalom Ber Cohen, director of education, said the Chabad outgrew its space in Lake Grove. Many programs had to be held at places such as the Bates House in Setauket, the Holiday Inn Express at Stony Brook and many other rentable spaces in the Three Village area due to lack of space.

“We were literally bursting at the seams there, which is why when we had to rent larger venues for community functions we rented up here in the Three Village area,” Motti Grossbaum said.

Chaim Grossbaum likened the new building to a village where everything a Jewish family needs would be under one roof. Like the Lake Grove location, Rivkie Grossbaum,  preschool director; Chanie Cohen, program coordinator; Chaya Grossbaum, camp coordinator; and Rivka Itzhaky, secretary and accounts payable/receivable, will join the rabbis.

“It would bring the community together as a village,” he said. “Whether they’re coming for the elementary school or coming for a holiday party, they’re coming home. They’re coming for prayer services or simply to relax with a friend over a cup of coffee. It’s the same home.”

The 13,000-square-foot Village Chabad sits on 8.8 acres of property, and 2.8 acres of it has been developed with a wooded buffer. There are classrooms, study rooms, a sanctuary, offices, a conference room, backyard, patio and a room that can hold 200 for events such as bat and bar mitzvahs and holiday dinners.

“This has been a community effort of many people who have stepped up and catapulted this whole project to happen.”

— Chaim Grossbaum

The rabbis said the new location would make it easier to serve the Jewish community who reside close to and on the North Shore. Many who attend services and activities at the Chabad are residents in the Three Village school district as well as Smithtown and Port Jefferson. The Chabad is open to anyone of the Jewish faith of any affiliation or background and membership is not required.

“The concept of Village Chabad is the wholesomeness that the Jewish community needs will be here,” Chaim Grossbaum said.

While the Chabad still holds a mortgage with Gold Coast Bank for the $5 million project, the rabbis said a number of sponsors, both big and small, stepped up to fund parts of the new building, including lead donors Edward and Vivian Merrin, owners of The Merrin Gallery in New York City, whose contribution kicked off the donations. Opportunities are still available for sponsorship as the Chabad hopes to finish a kitchen, install a playground for their school and a swimming pool for summer camp.

“This has been a community effort of many people who have stepped up and catapulted this whole project to happen,” Chaim Grossbaum said.

In addition to the rabbis, those who have attended services and events are looking forward to their new home. Cheryl and Bruce Singer, of Stony Brook, who have been involved with the Chabad for approximately four years, are among them.

“We look forward to having a modern building that provides a central hub for the Jewish community to learn, gather, worship, celebrate and participate in social and cultural events for all ages,” Cheryl Singer said.

Jennifer O’Brien, an insurance agent in Smithtown who travels to the Chabad from Hauppauge, said it has been nice to see it expand.

“Their new location looks like it will be the most upscale synagogue in our area as the floor plans are impressive to say the least,” O’Brien said. “My children loved attending Hebrew school at their former location in Lake Grove, and we are so excited for all that the grand opening and new accommodating space will offer a synagogue, school and camp.”

Andy Polan, president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said the new building “shows that our Jewish community is vibrant and growing.”

“It was Chabad’s outreach that inspired me to become more engaged with my Judaism and to take on leadership roles in our Jewish community,” Polan said. “These are experiences that will impact me forever.”

Motti Grossbaum said the Chabad currently serves about 500 active families and the move gives the Chabad the opportunity to benefit many more residents.

“We’re part of people’s lives, and we’re trying to bring meaning and purpose and to remind people that beyond the chaos of our day-to-day life, we all have a collective mission to make the world a better place every day,” Motti Grossbaum said.

The ribbon cutting will be held June 23 at 1 p.m. at the new building located at 360 Nicolls Road, East Setauket. Registration is required by visiting www.myvillagechabad.com.

The Chabad at Stony Brook hosted its second annual menorah lighting, Chanukah on Main Street, at The Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn in Stony Brook Dec. 3.

Inn owners Marty and  Elyse Buchman were on hand to light the menorah after a speech by Rabbi Motti Grossbaum where he explained the  miracle of Chanukah. The more than 200 attendees were entertained with a fire juggling show by Keith Leaf after the lighting.

The event also included a chocolate coin “gelt drop” from a cherry picker truck, handmade menorahs by children and latkes and donuts.

The Chabad at Stony Brook is located at 821 Hawkins Ave. in Lake Grove. For more information or to learn about the new center at 360 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, visit www.chabadSB.com or call 631-585-0521.

By Carin M. Smilk

The overcast skies may have kept some people away July 25, but even a little drizzle didn’t dampen the spirits of attendees at the ninth annual Jewish Summer Festival sponsored by Chabad of Stony Brook at West Meadow beach.

The evening included a kosher barbecue, concert with Israeli singer Yoel Sharabi and entertainment for all. A lively game of “Simon Says” with Steve Max kept adults as occupied as the kids.

The festival may be the last summer gathering before Chabad finishes the construction of a new state-of-the-art building on Nicolls Road in Stony Brook. A 13,000-square-foot facility will open in the coming months.

“It’s an exciting time for the Jewish community in central Suffolk County,” said Rabbi Motti Grossbaum. “We will be able to offer more Jewish classes, programs and events for all age groups, fostering increased Jewish opportunities, services and celebrations for all.”

For more information about Chabad at Stony Brook or to hear about available dedication opportunities in the new center at 360 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, visit www.chabadSB.com or call 631-585-0521 x101.

By Rita J. Egan

Chabad at Stony Brook hosted a menorah lighting Dec. 18 on the lawn of the Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn located on the corner of Main Street and Harbor Road. The nine-foot menorah was sponsored and organized by the Chabad.

The festivities began with a parade of cars escorted by the Suffolk County Police Department. Each participant’s vehicle was adorned with a menorah on top, and attendees of the event enjoyed latkes with applesauce, hot cocoa and doughnuts.

Rabbi Motti Grossbaum addressed the crowd before lighting the giant menorah with the assistance of the inn’s owners Marty and Elyse Buchman.

After the lighting, a gelt drop was held, and Grossbaum stepped onto a cherry picker and threw wrapped chocolate coins from 25 feet above for children to collect.

From left to right, Stephanie Belli’s sister Diana and mother Carol receive their copy of the book with Rabbi Cohen of Chabad at Stony Brook. Photo from Chabad at Stony Brook

Four hundred acts of kindness turned out to be an underestimate.

It has been one month since a horrific Cutchogue car crash killed four North Shore women, and Chabad at Stony Brook set out to assemble a book of kind acts to show how good could come out of tragedy. But by the time that book was finished last week, it had grown into a much bigger list.

Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack were riding in a limousine in the middle of a weekend wine tour on the eastern part of the Island when Steven Romeo, 55, T-boned their vehicle as it made a risky U-turn, killing the girls and injuring five others.

After the crash, Romeo was arraigned at Eastern Long Island Hospital and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was initially ordered held in lieu of $500,000 cash bail, or $1 million bond, but that bail was reduced to $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond. Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said Romeo had recorded a blood alcohol content of .066 percent — below the legal limit of .08 — when he was tested roughly one hour after the crash. The DWI charge, however, was not dropped, Spota said. No additional charges were filed against Romeo as the investigation continued.

Romeo’s court date, which was originally set for last week, was adjourned to Sept. 18.

The tragedy sent shockwaves through the greater North Shore community, and Chabad at Stony Brook called on everyone to help.

“People came out in big numbers to post all these heartfelt things they were going to do,” said Rabbi Shalom Ber Cohen of Chabad at Stony Brook, who helped launch the project in the wake of the tragic crash. “We’ve always encouraged to respond to darkness with light, and to evil with good.”

The group launched a Facebook group called “Goodness & Kindness x 400 for our girls,” and acquired thousands of page views in a matter of days, Cohen said. The goal, he said, was to remember the lives of those lost by compiling a book of names and acts of goodness committed in their honor, to show victims’ families that they were not alone in their darkest hour.

“We felt we were swarming in death,” Cohen said. “This was an act of goodness and kindness to bring more goodness to the world. While we can’t bring the girls back, when the community comes back and shows we are there, it does bring some kind of goodness.”

Good deeds included anything from committing to donate to worthy causes to something as simple as paying for succeeding cars in a Starbucks drive-thru.

Cohen, along with wife Chanie Cohen, a Chabad program coordinator, as well as Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum, Rabbi Motti Grossbaum and the rest of his staff, delivered those books to the victims’ families over the last week and said they helped everyone move forward in a time of great loss.

Diana Belli, sister of Stephanie Belli, took to the “Goodness & Kindness” Facebook page to express her gratitude.

“Thank you so much! With love, my entire family,” she wrote on the page. “This means a lot to us.”

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