Friday, July 14, 2006

$1.8m upgrade for Chabad Malvern nears completion

Melissa Singer

A MIKVAH, youth centre and library will all soon feature at Chabad House Malvern as a $1.8-million facelift nears completion.

Chabad Malvern's Rabbi Shimshon Yurkowicz, who established the shul in 1987, said the renovations, which are due to be completed in July, will enable the community of some 350 families to plan for the future.

"We have utilised every inch of space," he told the AJN during a tour of the Glenferrie Road site last week. "Most shuls have the issue of what's the future for the kids, how to get younger families involved."

To address the challenge, Chabad Malvern is building a dedicated youth centre, which will offer youth minyanim and after-school classes, as well as the shul's established bar and bat mitzvah program.

"Facilities are important, but it's what services you offer; it's how you treat people [that matters]," said Rabbi Yurkowicz. "Nevertheless, we had to dream up what we wanted [to build] because you only get one chance at it. A true community centre has a little bit of everything for everybody."

According to Rabbi Yurkowicz, "99 per cent" of his congregation, which peaks at 750 people on Yom Kippur, is non-observant. However, in the past 19 years, he has attracted many local families to increase their level of Yiddishkeit; more than 100 people regularly attend Shabbat services.

"You don't build a shul like this for three times a year," he said. "People focus on what you have but what's important are the building blocks you have in place."

To raise funds for the expansion, Rabbi Yurkowicz has appealed to 100 families to each donate $18,000, rather than two or three families footing the entire bill.

Chabad Malvern initially opened in a rented house on the same property it currently occupies. The current shul building was constructed in 1991. Chabad Malvern also operates a childcare centre at a property across the road.

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