Chabad @ Flamingo in Thornhill, Ontario, has big plans to keep on growing. About seven years ago, organizers drew up blueprints to expand the sanctuary and social area. The former was completed, and now they have moved on to the latter—a social hall that will double its capacity, from 200 people to 400.
With a big banquet hall and high-end decor set to be completed before Rosh Hashanah, Chabad is looking forward to being able to bring community events and celebrations home.
Jennifer Kranc, a synagogue member for more than a decade, can’t wait to see the space expanded. Instead of a brick wall and ceilings people often cover for social functions, she’s excited for chandeliers and a proper banquet space.
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“Then not only can you have the bar and bat mitzvahs, we can also take it to the social hall,” she says. “I hope that we’ll continue to be able to celebrate many simchahs, many happy occasions there.”
In fact, she would love to see her own daughter get married at Chabad one day, she says, as a proud member of a strong community with a rabbi who “makes Judaism really come alive.”
About eight years ago, Howard Glowinsky’s family was shopping around for a new synagogue. They visited Chabad, and his kids loved it and wanted to go back immediately; and over a number of months, it became their shul. He works in construction contracting, so when Rabbi Mendel Kaplan asked him for assistance with Chabad’s expansion plans, Glowinsky says he was happy to help.
Construction is underway for Chabad @ Flamingo’s new facilities in Thornhill, Ontario.
They designed everything as one phase, but given budgetary considerations, the project became two. With the synagogue space completed four years ago, Glowinsky says he’s looking forward to having the social hall and sanctuary match.
“It’s in my mind the nicest synagogue in the city,” he says. “We have a very warm and wonderful community, very tight-knit. People are helpful, respectful, we laugh together and we say ‘l’chaim’ together, and we mourn together when we have to—we come together, and we’ve really built a beautiful community.”
Congregants note they look forward to giving back to the synagogue by hosting their events in the new social hall, especially because they can count on kashrut. Additionally, says Glowinsky, the hall will be equipped with audiovisual capabilities to allow for multiple programs to take place at the same time.
“The Best Decision of Our Lives”
Sari Bachar and her husband, Ofir, joined Chabad @ Flamingo more than 10 years ago, and have watched it go from a small community in the rabbi’s basement to a synagogue bursting at the seams. “We made the best decision of our lives finding it,” she says. Her four children—23-year-old twins, a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old—all grew up there, and return to it when they’re in town. They also seek out Chabad on campus and in their travels, she says.
“It’s more than just a shul; it’s really a way of life, a community center,” says Bachar. “People relate to it on so many levels beyond just going, davening and going home. And I feel that the crown jewel is really our rabbi, definitely our rabbi.”
Kaplan has dreamed of finishing the work that was started, he says. The 10,000 square feet to be added, the kitchen area being converted into a meat area, and a brand-new dairy kitchen are all signs of the growth they have seen in the 15 years he and his wife, co-director Faygie Kaplan, have put into helping the community thrive.
“We have succeeded in building a very vibrant community,” he says. What began as a small gathering of people, where they often had to wake neighbors to find a 10th person for services, now has two morning minyans and one later in the day. They see upwards of 300 people weekly on Shabbat, and High Holiday attendance has climbed to 2,000 worshippers.
It is now six weeks into construction, with the foundations in and all but a few hundred thousand dollars in funding secured. “The Rebbe—the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—always encouraged us to build for more than our present needs, to project into the future,” says Kaplan. “It’s a vibrant community, it’s a growing community, and a basic need our community has is for a full social complex. The nice thing is it’ll bring in some money for the shul as well, so it’s another way to generate funds for our continued needs.”
What began as a small gathering of people, where they often had to wake neighbors to find a 10th person for services, now has two morning minyans and one later in the day. They see upwards of 300 people weekly on Shabbat, and High Holiday attendance has climbed to 2,000 worshippers. The shul provides a center for classes and community events like the one above.