(lubavitch.com) The new year just got a whole lot sweeter for the Jewish community of British Columbia.
On September 30th, the Canadian government bequeathed $633,333 from the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund to Lubavitch BC. A matching grant was provided by the Province of British Columbia. Both hinge on Chabad’s ability to raise an additional $633,333, equaling a grand total of $1.8 million. In the three days since the announcement, Chabad has raised $300,000.
Rabbi Yitzchok Wineberg states that “Chabad’s goal to teach, inspire, and uplift, will be enhanced by this government grant.” As Chabad of BC’s director for over 35 years, Wineberg has watched Vancouver’s transformation from “a village of Judaism into a vibrant city.” Today, Chabad operates five outposts in the greater Vancouver area: two more are planned, including a campus center, for this coming year.
Rabbi Wineberg applied for the grant five months ago, in conjunction with Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn of Ottawa, who is helping other Canadian Chabad centers apply as well. (Wineberg is the second rabbi to be awarded: Rabbi Avrohom Altein of Winnipeg received $600,000.)
Less than 48 hours after being notified, Wineberg coordinated a well-attended news conference at Chabad’s Oak Street location. Public officials joined community leaders and members to celebrate on Friday afternoon.
The Honorable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is a vocal supporter of Israel and the Jewish community. He spoke of his visit last year to Mumbai following the terror attacks, and of his respect for Chabad’s work globally. He also commended Lubavitch on its local success.
“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Government of Canada is proud to invest in the renovation of the Lubavitch Center through Canada’s Economic Action Plan,” said Kenney. “This expansion project will create jobs today and benefit Vancouver’s Jewish community for years to come.”
Benefits to the community center include a modernized kitchen and dining room to accommodate social and educational events. Until now, large affairs were held at rented venues. Now, hopes Wineberg, the center will be able to welcome several hundred attendees. A library, expanded storage area, office, and a health club will be added to the building as well.
The renovations can hardly come at a better time. As of this writing, there are only 128 days until Vancouver hosts the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. One of Chabad’s main objectives here is to assist tourists who come for the extended summer and cruise season. This February, tens of thousands of Jewish visitors are expected, and Chabad plans to amplify their services to meet each of their needs.
Two hot dog carts will roll through downtown Vancouver, serving up wieners and Tefillin to guests. Several rabbis will spend the season in Whistler, providing kosher food, classes, and prayer services to the ski community. Though the Olympics are several months away, Chabad receives a regular stream of emails and calls from people looking for Vancouver’s Jewish offerings.
The greater Vancouver area boasts a population of 40,000 Jews. The local Lubavitch centers offer Hebrew School, summer camp, an advanced yeshiva program, and synagogue services. In providing this grant, the Canadian government expressed its wish that Chabad increase its multicultural programming and “benefit the culture and heritage of the community through its scholarly library.”
Wineberg noted the proximity of Friday’s press conference with the onset of Sukkot (which began that evening). “On this day, Jews everywhere are busy building their sukkahs,” he said. “The holiday represents the fact that the Jewish people are never sure of their home. We are fortunate in Canada though, that our government supports this Jewish house of learning.
“Whatever the Jewish community needs, the Chabad House is there for them.”