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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chabad La Costa plans new synagogue

Big changes are under way at the Chabad La Costa synagogue.

Last March, after years of renting the site, the Orthodox Jewish congregation purchased its half-acre parcel and building at 1980 La Costa Ave. Plans are now in the works to tear down the 1,600-square-foot structure and replace it with a worship center to better serve the congregation's needs.

Unlike the original structure, which is more than 40 years old, said Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, the future building will be larger, wired for technology, and built "green," with the environment in mind. He said the plan represents "a new era" in the synagogue's growth and development.

If La Costa Chabad gets its "dream building," said Eilfort, the project will probably cost about $3 million and take at least two years to complete. A few hundred thousand dollars have been pledged, said Eilfort, who believes that contributions and fundraisers will help the dream become a reality.

"I am confident that when the time comes, the money will come," he said, "and that God will bless us."

The future synagogue "will offer a warm and inviting Old World-style atmosphere," Eilfort said, as well as meeting modern technology needs such as providing Internet access. The ideal new building would allow the synagogue to double the size of its sanctuary, add several classrooms for its Hebrew school and adult education program, and offer a larger social hall and kitchen for special events.

He said he would also like the new building to take advantage of the area's spectacular views, with the Bataquitos Lagoon to the west and the La Costa Resort golf course and rolling hills to the east.

Members of Chabad La Costa, founded in 1990, originally met in the home of Eilfort and his wife, Nechama. The couple, who now have eight children, moved to Carlsbad from Orange County, where Eilfort was director of education of Chabad of Irvine. As membership at the Carlsbad synagogue grew, he said, it became necessary to find a larger space to worship.

In 1991, the congregation settled in its current building, once owned by the nearby La Costa Resort & Spa. The land and nearby property, where an Albertsons grocery store and other businesses now stand, was later sold to a Newport Beach developer. The synagogue purchased its half-acre and building for $300,000, a transaction delayed until after the shopping center was completed.

"It was a long time coming," said Eilfort, "but it taught us patience." Money was raised through pledged donations and "with help from the Almighty," he said.

An architect and final plan for the future synagogue have not been selected, said Eilfort, but he has received help from congregation members who have construction, architectural and decorating experience. They are volunteering their time and materials to help bring the concept to life.

Non-members throughout the community could also play a role in the building's construction. Over the years, said Eilfort, "we've had tremendous community support. People like to see that a positive organization such as ours is here, and I think they know we try to help people outside of the Jewish religion as well."

General contractor and congregation member Mike Perez, who owns High Point Builders in San Marcos, has helped Eilfort with numerous projects at the site. He recently consulted with architect Russell Tsuchida of La Mesa, who provided a preliminary rendering of what the synagogue might look like.

"I'd like to be involved with this future facility from the ground up, if I'm asked," said Perez, whose parents, Elias and Rachel, were two of the synagogue's founding members.

Synagogue member Joel Barnett, owner of Light Bulbs Unlimited and Lighting Distinctions in Encinitas, has improved lighting at the building, which he said at one point was "falling apart." Barnett said he plans to be involved in designing lighting for the new building, which he said will be more energy-efficient and offer a warm, welcoming atmosphere for worshippers.

He said he enjoys giving to Chabad La Costa because "it is for such a good cause, and the people are so good to you. God has always been good to me. It's the least I can do."

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