- Social & Humanitarian
- The Rebbe
April 1, 2008
(lubavitch.com/lns) With Denver’s South Metro Jewish population up from 4,300 to 10,000 in the last decade, Chabad’s closing on a 1.2 million building last week came at an ideal time.
The Jewish community here--the largest one statewide outside of Denver--has waited impatiently for a new space that will respond to its rapid growth. “We need the space,” explains building committee member Jordan Graham. “We outgrew our present location a long time ago.”
Nestled in the shadows of the towering Rocky Mountains, the new facility will include a sanctuary, preschool and Hebrew school, Judaica gift shop, and ample room for programming.
A recent report from the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado placed South Metro’s Jewish population growth rate at 130 percent. Over the last decade, people have flocked to the area for its affordable housing and an excellent public school system.
Rabbi Avraham and Hindy Mintz have lived in Highlands Ranch since 2003. Their goal, says Rabbi Mintz, is to provide “every single Jew in South Metro Denver with a place where their religious and social needs are met.” To that end, they have touched the lives of 1,600 families living in two counties: Arapahoe and Douglas. In the latter, the Chabad center is the only Jewish organization.
The Center’s success is well-known among locals who, for four years, have gathered at its storefront home behind Napa Auto Parts. Programs have been so successful at Chabad, that the congregation swiftly outgrew the space. In their first year in Highlands Ranch, the Mintz’s attracted 100 people for High Holiday services. This past year, 400 prayed together.
In 2003, 180 participated in Chanukah festivities. This year’s crowd included 950 men, women, and children. Both those events, as well as many others the synagogue coordinates, are planned at nearby, large-capacity venues.
Daily activities, now curtailed because lack of space, will further enrich the Jewish experience of South Metro’s community. Adult education classes began with 95 and now attract over 380 eager learners. Currently, 22 children are waiting for a spot in the popular Hebrew school. A much-requested preschool has had to delay its opening until the new building was purchased.
Sue Stoveall is one of the many who are eager to move into new quarters. “I could not be happier,” she says. “It will be a Jewish home for everyone.”
Stoveall met the Mintz family soon after coming to town. At the time, she and her family were members elsewhere, but, she says, “it was just not the right place for us.” The Stovealls joined the Rabbi’s family for Shabbat dinner, a turning-point for the family who felt welcome and embraced by Chabad.
To Stoveall’s surprise, her two children “love Hebrew School.” So does 12-year old Rory Graham. “It is always fun,” she says, “I really feel at home there and I love to learn Hebrew.” The children’s enthusiasm is mirrored by the Federation study which found that for 66 percent of respondents being Jewish is very important.
Thus far, many of those surveyed have participated in Chabad’s varied programming. “I think that when Chabad arrived, it had a reputation to overcome,” says Stoveall. “Since he came, Rabbi Mintz has opened people’s minds and shown them what Chabad stands for. You can be whatever Jew you want to be and still be a part of the shul and the family they have created.”
It’s an approach that works, says Graham, pointing to attempts by other established organizations that tried their hand at outreach in this area, “but ended up getting canceled or having spotty attendance. Few others, he concedes, get “an overwhelming response like Rabbi Mintz.”
Renovations on Chabad’s 6,500 square foot building are set to begin shortly. Once completed, community members look forward to having High Holiday services and Passover seders at their own site, instead of at a neighboring hotel. Many are eager for existing programs such as Friendship Circle and JLI to have room to develop.
For her part, Stoveall is praying hard that she will be able to host her son’s May bar mitzvah in the new property.
“I don’t know if it will be ready,” she laughs, “but we can just hope.”