After a seven year process, the Melbourne Chabad-run Hamerkaz Shelanu and Lamdeni will next month lay a foundation stone at their new site, with construction set to begin next secular year.
Formerly an aged-care facility, the building at 569 Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick will be demolished and rebuilt into a multi-level community and education centre incorporating a synagogue, multi-use hall, state-of-the-art classrooms, rooftop playground, library, and community and education centres for the two organisations.
“Good things don’t happen overnight,” Rabbi Motty Liberow told The AJN. “It is definitely long overdue. We are thrilled that we are finally starting to build.”
The three-storey centre with underground parking and offices will provide desperately required space for the growing organisations.
Hamerkaz Shelanu has a weekly shul attendance in the hundreds, and Lamdeni – the after-school Hebrew and Jewish studies classes for children at non-Jewish schools – has 250 students enrolled.
“We have long outgrown our current premises and have to regularly wander around and hire other venues for many of our programs,” Rabbi Liberow said. “The demand [for Lamdeni] is constantly growing, to the point that we are even having to turn people away … Building this centre is a historic moment for the community.
“Our aim is to offer a quality part-time Jewish education and cater for close to 500 students,” he added.
As numbers at the Hebrew school continue to grow – the bat mitzvah program has increased from four students to 40 in the past few years, Rabbi Liberow stressed the importance of the centre to the community.
“The education centre will fulfill an enormous need within the Melbourne community, where around 50 per cent of children do not attend Jewish schools,” Rabbi Liberow explained. “As school fees continue to rise, among other factors, we expect this need to continue. Today, Jewish education is not a luxury that can be postponed.”
While the Hamerkaz community has supported the centre – led by building chairs Moshe and Miri Meydan – Lamdeni’s education centre still requires further community funding.
Rabbi Liberow has called on the wider community to support the venture, saying that dedication opportunities are still available.