The North Shore Jewish community is one step closer to getting its forever home as the groundbreaking ceremony for its new center took root in Stony Brook on Thursday evening.
Rabbi Chaim and his wife Rivkie Grossbaum addressed the eager crowd at the ceremony at R.C. Murphy Junior High School to mark the new Chabad Merrin Center at Stony Brook, named after Edward and Vivian Merrin, who donated $1 million to the center.
“Our wandering has come to an end,” Chaim Grossbaum said at the ceremony last week. “The Merrin Chabad Jewish Center is the answer.”
Since acquiring its first space at the Lake Grove Jewish Center in 1990, Chabad Stony Brook has spent much of its last 25 years wondering where it would offer its services. The growing Jewish community was hard to fit in the current center and it often relied on rental space to get the job done, Grossbaum said.
The current space can fit roughly 80 people, far less than the 400 families Chabad Stony Brook serves. The new center, now in phase two of the $5.5 million four-phase project, will be able to accommodate far more families once it is completed, he said.
The new center will have a banquet room, a gym, Mikvah and spa, a library, a pool, a santuary and more. The building is expected to open in the summer of 2016, the group said.
“It will pretty much be multi-use in many fashions for the several programs we service the community with,” Grossbaum said in a phone interview.
The center will offer Hebrew school, pre-school, summer camp and other school programs. According to layout plans, there will be five pre-school rooms and two regular classrooms.
The new center will be right in the heart of the Three Village community it serves, Grossbaum said. The center will also have a hospitality suite for the Jewish community taking care of sick loved ones at Stony Brook University Hospital, the group said.
The rabbi said he is hoping the center attracts new families to help Chabad Stony Brook grow exponentially.
“We want to give them reasons to want to go,” Grossbaum said. “It’s hard to create atmosphere in a rental space.”
The rabbi highlighted many of the difficulties the group experienced while going from place to place over the last 25 years. He said the center would help expand on everything they currently offer to enhance services.
Sheila Skolnick, an attendee at Chabad Stony Brook, said the center’s kind and welcoming atmosphere would draw many people into the new center. Skolnick along with many others said she is eagerly waiting for the new center to be built.
“The Merrin Center will be our place and we’ll know where to go,” Skolnick said. “It’s really a place for Jews to congregate from all over.”
Construction of the new center is expected to begin shortly. Kevin Harney of Stalco Construction is leading the project and John Tsunis of Gold Coast Bank is financing it.