Southside Chabad breaks ground on $2.9 million center for Jewish life​


By Chabad of Southside


In mid-September, more than 200 people attended the Chabad of Southside Jewish Life Center’s groundbreaking, which marked the beginning of construction on the new, 10,000 square-foot religious hub. In addition to Rabbis, community leaders, donors and community members, in attendance for the occasion were Republican Nominee for Congress, John Rutherford, and recently elected member of The Florida House of Representatives Clay Yarborough.


The 10,000 square-foot structure will be equipped with a student lounge, a library, a full-featured kosher kitchen for Shabbat and holiday meals, in addition to a kosher café, a dining hall, an activity room, and a state of the art preschool. The project carries a hefty $2.9 million dollar price tag, and cornerstone donations have been made by couples Lazar and Raissa Finker-Frenkel and Ryan and Dinie Shapiro. The new building allows Rabbi Shmuli and Chana Novack to expand their efforts to reach out to the Jewish students who attend neighboring schools, UNF, FSCJ, and Florida Coastal School of Law. The Chabad house is the only full-time Jewish center dedicated to local students. The Novack’s established Chabad of Southside in 2006 at the behest of Rabbi Yoseph Kahanov who together with his wife Rivkie heads Chabad’s network of six centers on the First Coast. ‘Chabad on Campus’ is a rapidly expanding network of more than 235 centers serving colleges and universities globally. It represents the largest network of full-time professionally staffed Jewish campus centers in the world.


“It was my first week of school and I was walking around campus when something caught my attention,” said UNF graduate, Steven Bigio, who flew in to emcee the event. “There were two Jewish looking people grilling under a tent, chatting with some people and even though I was a very shy freshman, I approached them and they immediately treated me as if they had known me forever,” he remembered. “That moment was pivotal to my education at UNF and indeed to my future.” Now experiences like Bigio’s will only be able to happen more and more, thanks to this very exciting and expansive addition.