A new building and a new Torah — there was a lot to celebrate on Aug. 27 as Sonoma County Chabad broke ground on its new building in Santa Rosa.
“It was a really great coming together of the community, despite the sweltering heat,” said Rabbi Mendel Wolvovsky, who directs the center with his wife, Altie.
And celebrate they did, with music, prayer, food and around 200 guests, including Sonoma County residents, city politicians and rabbis from the Bay Area and farther afield. It was an emotional moment, Wolvovsky said, and one that was intended to connect the new facility to the spirituality of Judaism.
“We wanted it to be clear it was built and anchored around the Torah,” the rabbi pointed out.
Sonoma Chabad has been renting facilities for 15 years, Wolvovsky said, but it’s been ready for a permanent home for a while. The search for the right facility wasn’t easy, but finally a building was found, along with a major donor — the Weingarten family of Sonoma County. The building, a former medical center, will be called the Joseph Weingarten Chabad Jewish Center; it’s located at 2461 Summerfield Road, on the far east side of Santa Rosa, about three miles from downtown and less than a half mile from Congregation Beth Ami, a Conservative synagogue of about 180 families.
“It took many years and a lot of miracles,” Wolvovsky said.
The new center will eventually have a sanctuary that can also be used for celebrations, as well as a kosher kitchen, classrooms, office space and an outdoor playground. For these alterations, Sonoma County Chabad is raising an additional $500,000. The campaign is almost halfway there, at close to $200,000, Wolvovsky said.
“We’re really touched by the response already,” Wolvovsky said.
And although he expects the permitting and building process to take another six to eight months, the fact that the Torah — which was finished on site by the scribe who wrote it — was completed means that Chabad in Sonoma already has a foundation upon which to build.
“We feel that Sonoma County has a great Jewish future,” Wolvovsky said.