Naomi Rubin gets lots of calls from people looking for a synagogue. As program director for the Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte Counties in Florida, she fields inquiries from people from all kinds of backgrounds coming through or moving to the area and asking where they might find such a place.

She frequently sends them to Cape Coral’s Chabad-Lubavitch center.

“I think they’ll be pleased,” she says. “I think they’ll be well received, and even if it’s not their cup of tea, so to speak, it’ll be a nice experience for them.”

In the near future, Rubin will be directing her callers to the new home of the Chabad Jewish Center of Cape Coral, a building it expects to have in full swing by Chanukah. The move from the current space—two large multipurpose office rooms divvied up for the synagogue’s programs, which range from Torah study to prayer services to social activities—will mean a more permanent and accessible location.

“It’ll be very nice,” comments Rubin. “A permanent place brings more people in, as well. They know that you’re there for the long run.”

In addition to expanding the local Jewish community further, she believes, the new location will help the center expand its educational options. She sees the Chabad House as a haven for people looking for opportunities for their children and grandchildren, whether it’s the center’s winter and summer camps or its Sunday morning Hebrew school.

“They work hard to find Jews in the community and they build relationships with [them],” she says of Chabad co-directors Rabbi Yossi and Rivky Labkowski. “People feel very connected to them.”

The rabbi looks forward to the increased space.

“We’ll have room to invite more people,” he says.

Community members, who range from young families to older and seasonal travelers to longer-term residents, got involved in the new building process from the get-go, contributing their money, time, and in some cases, legal services to help facilitate the sale. The rabbi also is quick to express the center’s thanks to Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, and the Shluchim Fund for securing a grant for the project from Moses Tabicinic.

“Everybody did their part,” relates Labkowski. They had been looking for some time to buy a building, and when the real estate market dropped, a one-story facility on an acre of land on the area’s main stretch became a reality.

Community members plan to be in the new building by Chanukah.
Community members plan to be in the new building by Chanukah.

As the housing market picks up and people start to move back in, Labkowski says he knows they’ll be looking for an established center for Jewish programming.

“We’re hoping to gear more programming to children, and we’re probably going to open down the line a preschool and a Jewish ritual bath,” he says. “In addition, we’ll have a bigger synagogue, a library, and a children’s library.”

Cape Coral resident Russell Krakow says he’s thrilled to see how the Jewish center, which he stumbled upon for Rosh Hashanah services four years ago, has been flourishing. Krakow, who now participates in services, classes and events at the center, says he’s noticed the numbers growing. People come from all different areas and backgrounds, but find family in each other on a day-to-day basis, he adds, noting that on a personal level, the Labkowskis have been instrumental in his Jewish journey.

“I’ve come full circle,” says Krakow. “For years I went as far away from Judaism as you could have possibly gotten, and I’ve just come back.

“Just by being observant for one week in their home made me realize it wasn’t difficult to do,” he continues. “And it felt right. I feel complete.”

Of the new building, Krakow says the community is buzzing with excitement.

“It’s the next step,” he states. “It’s a gorgeous building, and we’re going to build a beautiful synagogue inside. It’s going to be wonderful for the community to come and enjoy services and all that Chabad has to offer.”