The generation gap grows wider and wider, but in the Jewish community of Venice & North Port, FL, one team of Chabad representatives might have found a way to fix that.
In 2005, armed with only a small living room, Rabbi Sholom and Rivka Schmerling have opened their doors. The majority of those who came looking for something familiar were retirees from the north. At the very first Chanukah event in that first year, the couple prepared for a crowd of 50. Two hundred showed up, and the numbers have just kept growing.
It wasn’t long before the Schmerlings discovered another, altogether different demographic eager to join Chabad activities. Young families. Today, more than 600 families are engaged with Chabad of Venice and North Port.
Opening in May is a new 3,600-square-foot youth center–the second phase of their developing campus that will be ready for move-in day. Phase 1 was the purchase of the 4.2 acre property which will house the center. And in a happy arrangement, retirees will volunteer their time to mentor the youth, closing the generation gap one individual at a time, contributing to a cohesive family.
The youth center follows another groundbreaking this past March 6th: Phase 3 of the campus is the Life Center–an 11,000 sq ft building that will include a social hall, library, adult-education room, sanctuary and more. The Schmerlings are almost one quarter the distance in their $4 million fundraising goal.
“We’re very excited about the new building. In recent years, we have had to rent larger locations for holidays and major events because our current spot just can’t hold us anymore,” says Rabbi Sholom Schmerling.
As he tells it, the time has finally come. “And we have the perfect location—right in the heart of Venice on Jacaranda Blvd. This new building and campus will give our work a proper, permanent home and provide us with the space we need to continue to grow as a community.”