When Rabbi Avrohom Brashevitzky established the Chabad Jewish Center of Doral, he only knew one Jew in Doral and hosted services in private homes.
Three years later, the congregation has grown to about 40 active members and occupies a two-floor space in a shopping center at 9725 NW 41st St.
Brashevitzky said that does not include several hundred Jews who are mostly of South American descent he has met -- who live or work in Doral -- but don't attend services.
''And there are Jews who live here that I don't know yet,'' said Brashevitzky, formerly a pulpit rabbi at Shalom Congregation at the Casablanca Hotel in Miami Beach.
Doral has a number of Catholic and Lutheran churches within city limits, but the Chabad Center is the only place of worship for the city's Jewish families.
Because Doral is home to a large South American population, most of the center's Jews, Brashevitzky said, hail from countries such as Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela and Colombia, places where Jews are a religious minority -- though a distinct one.
Most Jews arrived in South America after fleeing anti-Semitic forces in Germany, eastern Europe and Russia.
A significant portion of the South American population also consists of Sephardic Jews, who are descendants of Jews from Spain and Portugal.
Jorge Ghitis, a Colombian Jew who attends services at Chabad Center of Doral, said his Jewish parents met in Colombia after his mother fled Germany and father fled Romania.
Although he practiced his Jewish faith growing up, Ghitis said he had abandoned it until Brashevitzky called him one day about three years ago and asked to meet.
''Before meeting the rabbi, my spiritual base was very low,'' said Ghitis, who stopped practicing after his Bar Mitzvah.
Now Ghitis spends much of his spare time at the Chabad center and doesn't miss Shabbat morning services at 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays.
''I have achieved a balance between the material, mental and spiritual,'' Ghitis said. ``All Jews have a spark that unites us inside of them. They just need to be reminded.''
Ghitis moved to Doral about 15 years ago because it was a convenient location for his wife, who worked at Miami International Airport. Ghitis now works near the airport, too, as a Miami-Dade police officer.
''I find people who moved to Doral and didn't put the Jewish faith at the top of their list,'' said Brashevitzky, noting that the closest synagogues are in Kendall.
Brashevitzky said that is the vision behind the Chabad movement, which aims to provide outreach services and activities through community centers, synagogues and schools to Jews in communities that lack a significant Jewish population.
''Our goal is to make sure Jews don't go a year without having contact with the faith,'' he said.
Chabad Lubavitch is one of the largest Hasidic movements in Orthodox Judaism with about 4,000 centers in more than 50 countries. According to www.Chabad.org, there are more than 60 Chabad centers in Florida. Most are in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Brashevitzky said the Chabad movement is not about building a temple and increasing membership but awakening the dormant faith in some Jewish people.
''It's nice to have a big center, but the idea is to reach each and every individual,'' he said. ``The idea is to rekindle that spark of Judaism faith. That sense of belonging.''
Brashevitzky, who is planting seeds to someday build a synagogue, likens himself to a farmer overseeing barren soil with hope the land will produce beautiful crops.
''Doral keeps growing and there's a growth -- though a slow one -- of the Jewish population here,'' he said.