The new space is a boon to the community. Rabbi Meir Simon, Chabad’s youth director with his wife Sara, says, “Our summer camp, for example, has been running out of rented rooms at local public schools for the past five years. Now we can expand the session to six weeks instead of four, accept more children, and invest in quality equipment. We’re really excited to be able to use the tennis and basketball courts, soccer field, and picnic and bonfire areas.”
The newly remodeled facility allowed the preschool, one of the only certified eco-friendly schools in the state, to open unique outdoor classrooms where the children spend the entire day learning and playing outside (weather permitting). “We even hang their art projects and classroom posters outside, from the trees,” says Rabbi Avraham Mintz, director of Chabad of South Metro with his wife Hindy. “The benefits of learning outdoors are tremendous.”
And instead of a long waiting list, with capacity limited to sixty-two children, Chabad can fill 190 spots. That’s good news for a community that has seen major growth in the last few years, especially during the COVID era, as so many Americans flee large cities for the vast country land. Mintz estimates that two hundred families are involved in Chabad’s youth programs.
Sandy Feld, a local commercial real estate developer, remembers when he met the Mintz family for the first time, just after they moved to the area in 2003. “Rabbi Mintz walked into my office and introduced himself as the new rabbi of Highlands Ranch. My business partner and I looked at each other and said, ‘there are no Jews in Highlands Ranch!’”
The building in Lone Tree, six miles away from the new location, is still being used for Chabad’s synagogue. Shabbat and holiday services and adult education programming will continue to be held there.
For Feld, it’s personal. “I feel like I get to have a small part in every mitzvah that’s done in the new center.”