By Dvora Lakein, lubavitch.com
Hundreds of city locals looked on Sunday as the State Attorney General joined rabbis and cut the ribbon on the first Jewish building to be constructed in Oklahoma City in the last half century.
The Chabad Community Center for Jewish Life and Learning released its doors to more than 300 guests representing cross section of Oklahoma’s population, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who came to celebrate the achievements and promise of this community.
From behind the podium, Attorney General Drew Edmondson congratulated the crowd. “This is an important event not only for Chabad and the Jewish community. It is significant for the whole state of Oklahoma and even the entire nation.”
To most Americans, mention of Oklahoma City recalls the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people. But Sunday’s event saw children laughing and playing at a special program inside the new building while their parents mingled outside.
Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, Chabad representative to Oklahoma City, beamed as he looked out at his community. “This is the warmest, friendliest, most generous community I have ever met.” Since their arrival ten years ago, Rabbi and Mrs. Nechama Goldman have worked energetically to nurture “the desire for spiritual depth and knowledge” within the city’s people.
Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, the Chairman of Lubavitch Educational and Social Services division flew to Oklahoma to address the event. “This is not only the dedication of a building of brick and mortar,” he said. “This edifice will have a soul.” Referring to King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Holy Temple, he said all would be welcome and find fulfillment of their prayers in this magnificent sanctuary.
“People will come here to find solace and comfort, joy and gratitude. This will be a place to seek counsel, to study, and to pray.”
Guests explored the 8,000 square foot structure and shared their enthusiasm at its completion. Lay leadership from every Jewish organization in the city expressed their appreciation for what Chabad has achieved with “heart and soul.”
Rabbi Yehuda Weg, chief Chabad representative to Oklahoma who recruited the Goldmans to Oklahoma City, spoke with lubavitch.com after the event: “When you consider that more than 300 people in a city with a population of less than 2,000 Jews came to celebrate this opening, you realize how Chabad here has touched people, both Jewish and non-Jewish.” It is evidence, he said, that the Goldmans “are a tremendous resource for humanity.”
Dinner followed the outdoor ceremony where, for the first time since Chabad arrived, diners ate fine kosher food prepared on the premises. Glasses clinked as guests were serenaded by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s renditions of Chasidic music.
Construction on the Center began in August of last year. Many bulldozers and cement trucks and 1.5 million dollars later, the building is ready in time for the High Holidays.
“Until now, we have been extremely restricted in finding an appropriate space for our programs,” says Rabbi Goldman, who until now, held services, classes, and summer camp in various leased and rented sites.
Practicality oozes out of each corner of the gleaming center’s many rooms. “Our architects planned the site to be multi-use and flexible because of our diverse needs,” Rabbi Goldman explains.
Those diverse needs include a large multi-purpose room to be used for adult classes and speakers; areas for children to play and learn; and an outdoor serenity garden for quiet reflection. The center houses the city’s only kosher kitchen in the city.
Goldman points out the building is also eco-friendly. “We used recycled materials for construction and used special lighting and window placement to ensure maximum energy efficiency.”
In acknowledgment of Chabad’s vigor towards Jewish education and continuity in the state of Oklahoma, Governor Brad Henry instituted this week as “Jewish Awareness Week.”
To the community who have come to know the Goldmans’ energy and hard work, this is but the beginning, with much greater developments yet to come, for the benefit of the entire Oklahoma City community.
Guests nodded in agreement and laughter when Rabbi Krinsky, alluding to the national energy crisis, promised Oklahomans that they can rest assured, “that there is no energy crisis in the world of Lubavitch.”