Some 300 of Puerto Rico’s Jewish community turned out to celebrate the grand opening of the Rohr Chabad Center and new mikveh last week. Joining them were Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla, president of the San Juan municipal assembly Lic. Marco Rigau, and Lic. David Efron, honorary consul of Israel to Puerto Rico.
“This magnificent center began with a simple wish: for Puerto Rico to have its own mikveh,” Mrs. Rachel Zarchi said, recalling her vision when she and her husband, Rabbi Mendel Zarchi, arrived on the island eighteen years ago. “The construction of the mikveh evolved into this glorious building—the actualization of many years of effort and yearning. Tonight is the fulfillment of a dream.”
Governor Padilla spoke warmly of this unusual development. “I feel that I am here in the home of our father in faith. Puerto Rico may be going through turbulent times, but we have to remember that we have the best pilot—God.”
Formerly under Spanish rule, Puerto Rico was inhospitable to Jews for hundreds of years. Today, 3000 Jews make their home on this sun-drenched archipelago, and thousands more pass through for business and travel.
Locals and travelers, grateful for Chabad and its services here, have put their support behind the project. Despite setbacks from the economic crisis several years ago, the project was completed with a grant from the Rohr Foundation.
“You learn to appreciate the value of every individual’s contribution, big or small,” Rabbi Zarchi said. “It’s a testament to the unity of the Jewish people that we feel a responsibility to one another, regardless of where we find ourselves.”
The six-million-dollar, 11,000-square-foot building features a mikveh, kosher kitchen, banquet hall, study hall, library, visitors’ lounge, and classrooms for Jewish education.
“The new establishment,” say community members Sarah and Isaac Levy, “will change the feeling of being Jewish in Puerto Rico forever.”
For more information or to contact Chabad of Puerto Rico, visit www.chabadpr.com.