Local leaders of Reno’s Jewish community were on hand to dedicate the new home of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northern Nevada. Far more than a synagogue, the just-completed 13,500-square-foot building in “The Biggest Little City in the World” will house a preschool and day school, senior center, community kitchen, Internet café and kosher deli to serve the area’s estimated 3,000 Jewish residents.

Under the direction of Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Cunin, the new regional Chabad headquarters – which was officially opened in a grand ceremony on May 26 – has already attracted newcomers.

“It truly will be a Jewish community center,” said Jill Glenn, who has lived in Reno for the past five years. “It really is a unique center, and you get an amazing feeling when you walk in the door. The way the building is structured really makes it become a place where anyone can come into the door.”

Glenn, a 63-year-old writer and lecturer who teaches at the center’s David and Parvin Farahi Jewish Day School said that the school, which also goes by the name The Aleph Academy, will make an “impact on the entire community.”

Among the new facilities benefitting the Aleph Academy are a natural “playscape,” or a playground made entirely of natural materials, mini lofts, hypoallergenic floors and classrooms with a capacity of 50 students. Previously, the school, which was operated from the Cunins’ own home, could accommodate only 12 children.

Farahi siblings Jon, Bob, Ben and Jila underwrote the day school in honor of their parents, who emigrated from Iran in the 1960s. The dedication ceremony noted the parents’ instillation of Jewish values, and called attention to the school’s same mission.

“The survival of our people is in the hands of our children. What better way to emphasize this than to have a Jewish school in our community?” said Catherine Farahi, a daughter-in-law of David and Parvin Farahi. “I’m sure that it will have nothing but positive influence in our community in every way. Our own children didn’t have the opportunity to go to the school, but we’re looking forward to our grandchildren being able to take advantage of it.”

Glenn attributed the Aleph Academy’s past successes to Sarah Cunin, who directs the school.

“Mrs. Cunin’s vision for the school is unbelievable,” she said. With the expanded facilities, “everyone will come together for the good of education.”

The May 26 dedication ceremony of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northern Nevada’s new building drew all segments of the Reno Jewish community. (Photo: Fitzfotonv.com)
The May 26 dedication ceremony of Chabad-Lubavitch of Northern Nevada’s new building drew all segments of the Reno Jewish community. (Photo: Fitzfotonv.com)

Tova Ramos, who was born and raised in Reno, agreed, asserting that the converted former office building had the potential to unite Jews throughout northern Nevada.

“I’ve seen how the community has unified and broken up over the years,” said Ramos, who teaches drama at the Aleph Academy. “I think that Chabad has done a lot to be a unifier and the new center will work towards the goal of unity here, because it will provide more resources that everyone can use.”

According to Ramos, this is the first time that a Jewish school has been dedicated in the region. More than 200 people, including governmental dignitaries and Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries from across the West Coast, attended the opening ceremony, which John Marschall, author of Jews in Nevada, addressed as the guest speaker.

“When we moved here six years ago, people always said that the area lacked a certain sense of community,” said Sarah Cunin. “Now, no one can say there’s nothing Jewish here.”