Just a few days before the onset of the three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples, on the auspicious date of 13 Tammuz, a taste of the rebuilding we all pray and hope for was experienced in the heart of Jerusalem, as the cornerstone was laid for a new synagogue and community outreach center.
It was Sunday, July 2, and a few hundred people gathered to celebrate the momentous groundbreaking ceremony and 15th anniversary dinner of Chabad of Baka-Beit Levi, directed by Rabbi Avraham and Nechama Dina Hendel.
The excitement was palpable as young and old joined at 87 Beit Lechem Road to be a part of laying the cornerstone for the new center, which will be built on the spacious plot of land that lay barren for decades. After years of tireless efforts, and with the devoted perseverance of talented community member and architect David Abergel and the assistance of Deputy Mayors Rabbi Yaakov Halperin and Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the Jerusalem Municipality gifted the property to the Chabad of Baka community. Generous donors within the community and from abroad have helped raise over $1.6 million so far, enough to begin building the beautiful structure. The total estimated cost of the building is $2.6 million.
Guests at the groundbreaking event and dinner came from far and near to be a part of the community milestone. Rabbi Yisrael Yosef and Rebbetzin Tobi Hendel, Rabbi Avraham’s parents who were sent by the Rebbe in the 1970s to be Chabad emissaries in northern Israel, joined in the celebration. It was an emotional moment when Rabbi Hendel spoke about his dear son Levi z”l, who passed away on Chanukah in 2006 in a tragic car accident, while on his way to a menorah lighting ceremony at an IDF base in Eilat.
“This building is a comfort to us,” Rabbi Avraham’s father said, “because it will eternalize Levi’s life and legacy, which was about doing for others, as you can see from the fact that he gave up his vacation as a young yeshiva student to bring the joy of Chanukah to lonely soldiers.”
Also in attendance were Nechama Dina’s parents, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak and Rebbetzin Hindy Kalmenson, Chabad emissaries in New Haven, Connecticut. Rabbi Kalmenson was honored together with Rabbi Hendel of Migdal Haemek to lay Beit Levi’s cornerstone.
Appetizing delicacies, fresh flowers, and balloons were set up elegantly by talented event planner, Gruny Tzivin, who volunteered her services at Grunya Events. Uplifting music was played by pianist Pinny Shachar, accompanied by veteran violinist Reb Yitzchak Hurwitz and his well-trained pupil, Yekusiel Hendel.
After short speeches by both Deputy Mayors, shul president Alex Traiman, Rabbi Yisrael Yosef Hendel, and Rabbi Mendel Kalmenson, noted author and Chabad emissary in Belgravia, it was time to break ground. Every community member and guest had a chance to don the personally designed helmets and dig their shovels into the plot to cover the newly laid cornerstone.
A festive dinner at the Chabad of Baka hall followed the groundbreaking event, where participants were treated to more inspiration, music, and fine cuisine. Rabbi Aaron and Rebecca Hurwitz, together with Tamir and Judy Goodman, were the devoted congregants who were honored for their outstanding community service. Shayna Hefetz, a performer in Raise Your Spirits Theater and Women’s Performance Community of Jerusalem and involved mother in the Friendship Circle of South Jerusalem, shared her appreciation for the myriad programs run by Chabad of Baka for children with special needs and their families.
The keynote address was delivered by Rabbi Yekusiel Kalmenson, founder and CEO of multiple behavioral health care companies in Southern California and Arizona, renowned Rabbi and orator, and generous supporter of Chabad of Baka. Rabbi Kalmenson’s message of strengthening our trust in G-d was deeply empowering, and the poignant stories he shared moved the crowd to tears.
“Last night reached the depths of my soul and gave me inner joy that I don’t know how to truly express,” Dafna, an occupational therapist and community member, shared in a warm message after the event.
In the words of Hadassah Chen, popular journalist and interview host, who joined the groundbreaking dinner, “Great energy was felt in the room as people from diverse backgrounds mingled and spoke to each other and then listened to Rabbi Hendel’s plans for the building that will eventually become a beautiful community center and synagogue to finally accommodate all of their activities and their growing community.”
From adult education to children’s programs, from uplifting Services to Shabbat dinners, from holiday events to Friendship Circle activities, one thing is certain: this new building has much to offer Jerusalem residents and immigrants from abroad.
For more details about the building campaign, visit http://chabadbakabuilding.website/