A half-acre parcel of land overlooking Batiquitos Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad is about to look a lot different. Currently, it’s the home of Chabad at La Costa, which has rented the property (including a small, many-times-repurposed old building circa the early 1960s) since 1991. Chabad purchased the land and building two and a half years ago. When they paid off their mortgage last year, they knew they were ready to improve the structural face of their congregation, says Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort. Separately from that issue, they knew they needed to develop an effective and rapid response to the growing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment that’s cropped up in California and worldwide in the past few years, he says.
“[Anti-Semitism] just keeps evolving and has an ugly new face, and this is our response to all the nonsense that’s going on in the world right new, vis-à-vis the Jewish people and Israel,” Rabbi Eilfort says. “We’re fighting darkness by adding light.”
That light will come in the form of the North County Jewish Center, as Eilfort says they’ll call the new facility. The structural plans are just in the beginning stages. The renderings have been drawn, paperwork submitted, conditional use permit applied for, initial testing begun. But plans for what Rabbi Eilfort and Rabbi Michoel Shapiro have planned for their congregation are already well underway, and they involve the surrounding Jewish community as much as the general population.
“This will be a center filled with a positive message for humankind,” Rabbi Eilfort says. “It will also be a world-class education center where people will learn about Judaism and Israel’s positive contributions to the world.”
Because the architectural plan for their new facility involves a creative (and aesthetically pleasing) new use of the small amount of space they have, they’ll be able to allow for more activities and enhanced programming. That includes synagogue services, Hebrew school, youth and senior programming, community Internet access, afternoon activities for children from a lower socioeconomic background, a kosher catering kitchen, kosher banquet facilities, adult education and more.
It’s the adult education, specifically, where Rabbi Eilfort says he hopes to attract the non-Jewish community.
“We’re going to really put a jet engine to what we’ve been doing as far as outreach,” he says. “We’ll do things that attract people who are not just from our congregation by having renowned speakers who are staunchly pro-Israel and experts in the field, and we will make very strong marketing campaigns to the general community so that people who are outside of the Jewish community will see what’s going on and will involve themselves.”
It’s this community-wide involvement and education about Judaism and Israel that will be the key to combating anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but it will only be possible with a newer, more welcoming, more user-friendly facility. (The current building is a bit “intimidating” in its small size and aging appearance, Rabbi Eilfort says.)
According to Rabbi Eilfort, the entire project should cost about $1.5 million, a goal they’re in the process of reaching. They’re about halfway there, he says, and working diligently to raise the rest.
When their current facility is torn down and the new one is being constructed, Rabbi Eilfort says they plan to rent nearby retail space to maintain an active, functioning congregation. By the end of 2011, he says, he hopes the new facility will be complete.
“We have a very close-knit communal family right now,” he says. “This is going to open it up many times over just because of the new programming we’re going to offer at the new facility and all that it will allow us to do. We want people to realize we’re here as an asset to them; we’re here for them, to serve the community. It’s our joy and our mitzvah.”
A Web site is currently under construction that will explain the building campaign and educate the community about the purpose of the new center. Visit it at www.NCJewishCenter.com.
Chabad at La Costa
1980 La Costa Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92009