BOYNTON BEACH, FLORIDA—Chabad here is expecting a full house for Rosh Hashana, and like most other Chabad centers, you don’t need to pay to pray.
In the space of seven short years, Chabad of Boynton Beach, Florida, moved from the Rabbi’s living room to the back of a storefront to a small house, and just recently, to a brand-new, 13,000 square foot building on a three-acre property in the center of Boynton Beach.
The beautiful new Rae and Joseph Gann Campus for Living Judaism, a 4-million dollar project, houses all the community’s programs with a sanctuary that seats up to 600, a social hall with room for 400, Hebrew school classrooms, a youth center, and ample office space.
Phase two of the project, already under construction, includes plans for a mikvah, pre-school, and state-of-the-art recreation center.
The growth is phenomenal, admits Rabbi Sholom Ciment, director of Chabad of Boynton Beach, but actually fairly typical for this up-and-coming suburban city 65 miles north of Miami. Only about 10 years old, Boynton Beach is home to one of the fastest growing populations in the country, and according to a recent demographic survey, the fastest growing Jewish community in North America, now numbering over 40,000.
Seven years ago, he says, the signs were pointing toward a massive population boom, particularly for the Jewish community. Boynton Beach is near the major business centers but far enough to be considered pleasant suburbia. Huge housing projects were going up, and thousands of young families and recent retirees were pouring into the neighborhood. That’s when Rabbi Sholom and Dini Ciment moved to Boynton Beach, as full-time Chabad-Lubavitch representatives.
For Stanley Javer, Chabad’s move to the area brought about a profound change in his life. “Rabbi Ciment and Chabad brought meaningful religion into my life where there was none before,” he says. “I feel very grateful for having been given the opportunity to explore Judaism from this angle.”
“The unique thing about Chabad is that although we have a thriving community, non-members are always warmly welcomed and participate in many of our programs,” says Rabbi Ciment.
Perhaps as a result of this policy, the community is growing constantly. Chabad serves thousands of Jews in the community with a vast range of programs, including a full service synagogue with current membership of 350 families. A variety of adult-education classes offered all week long are well attended, an active women’s group coordinates various activities throughout the year, and large crowds join Chabad for holiday programs and family events.
“Boynton Beach is thriving,” says Rabbi Ciment, “and Chabad needs to match that vitality with a tremendous amount of growth.”