The new Esformes Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Center of Greater Daytona Beach is a far cry from the small living room Rabbi Pinchas and Chani Ezagui used to conduct prayer services when they arrived in Ormond Beach, Fla., 15 years ago.

But a lot has changed since then. First came the addition of more activities – adult education classes, children’s enrichment activities – and then the construction of a synagogue. All the while, Daytona’s Jewish community soared to its current strength of 1,800 families.

On Sunday, the community entered a new era with the dedication of the Esformes center, a $5.5 million, 25,000-square-foot facility sitting on the grounds of the original Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue. The complex’s benefactor, Chicago philanthropist Rabbi Morris Esformes, was on hand for the occasion, as was John Harris, speaker of the State House of Representatives of Alaska, and a crowd of more than 500 people.


“This area is indeed auspicious for fostering the Jewish heritage,” said Pinchas Ezagui, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Greater Daytona. “But we haven’t seen anything yet.”

Esformes’ involvement in the center that bears his name happened by Divine Providence, he told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. He first purchased a retirement village two decades ago, and 15 years later, found out about the local Chabad through a happenstance meeting with a community member.

“It’s probably destiny,” he told the paper. “All my life, I have attempted to enhance Jewish education – in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Israel. This was surely something I never had dreamed about, and it happened by a fluke.”

Esformes’ next project is the Esformes Campus of Jewish Culture in Alaska.

The Daytona center houses an ornate Middle-Eastern style synagogue, 10 classrooms, two commercial kitchens, women’s and men’s ritual baths, a daily chapel and a spacious ballroom. Ezagui said that the day school is offering an 80 percent scholarship for the first 40 children that enroll.