An Alpharetta synagogue’s expansion has made quite a splash in the northeastern Georgia town. According to residents, with two new swimming pools, a multipurpose playing field, and three new Jewish ritual baths, Chabad-Lubavitch of Alpharetta has helped transform Jewish family life.

Now nicknamed the “Shul With a Pool,” the Jewish center filled its 4.5 acres of centrally located land with camp conveniences unparalleled by any other nearby center. And while they point to the pool and field as a welcome draw for their children, local Jewish women look at the addition of luxuriously-appointed mikvah facilities as making the observance of Judaism’s family purity laws more appealing.

“It’s a great accomplishment to build this beautiful facility,” said Cindy Steele, a community activist who was involved in fundraising for the project and wants to learn how to be a mikvah attendant.

The biblical mandate for women to visit the ritual bath on a regular basis “isn’t really talked about,” she explained. “Having a beautiful, spa-like place to go really changes [people’s] perspective. This really makes it welcoming to everyone.”

Turning to the outdoor sports facilities – which opened on June 29, just in time for the 220 campers taking part in the Camp Gan Israel at the new Max and Betty Schorvitz Aquatic and Sports Center – Doug Weinbach said that the expansion “made an already great community center even stronger.”

“To have the pool facility right there is tremendous,” stated Weinbach, whose eight-year-old son is spending his fifth summer at the Lubavitch-run day camp. “Now, he looks forward to camp even more.”

According to the center’s director, Rabbi Hirshy Minkowicz, the new facilities will attract more families from various backgrounds and affiliations, and help them connect to their Jewish heritage.

Serving Young Families

With two new pools, Chabad-Lubavitch of Alpharetta is a young family’s paradise.
With two new pools, Chabad-Lubavitch of Alpharetta is a young family’s paradise.

With 6,000 Jewish children in its midst, the North Fulton County region is very young, said Minkowicz. The day camp began in his living room in 1999, and has grown into a full program for children aged three to 11, boasting sports, art projects, baking, drama productions and field trips.

Debbie Isaacs, whose children are also spending their fifth summer at Gan Israel, said that they are having a great time.

“They love the pool and all the swimming time,” said Isaacs. “They can get changed and swim and stay in the pool for longer, and don’t have to go on a bus to get there. Before, they only swam for two days a week. Now they swim every day.

“This has definitely attracted more people to our camp,” she continued, “because it’s not something that other Jewish camps in the area offer.”

“The camp is front and center in our community,” said Weinbach. “It’s a big part of who we are. So the additions have demonstrated a great vision for our community, and shown what will best benefit us. It’s just beautiful.”

Regarding the new Mei Menachem Mikvah – which includes two changing rooms, separate immersion pools for men, women and kitchen utensils, and a private reception and waiting room – Steele pointed out that at the grand opening ceremony, community members “couldn’t wait” to try out the facility.

A recent community meeting for those interested in working at the mikvah drew about 20 women who expressed interest in becoming attendants and helping with the facility’s maintenance.

“The foundation of a Jewish community is the mikvah,” said Rashi Minkowicz, the center’s co-director. “By building something very upscale, it will attract people who wouldn’t come otherwise.”

For her part, Steele posited that more young Jewish families would consider living in Alpharetta.

“It’s great that everyone’s excited to be a part of this,” she said. “This makes our community more accessible.”