New Chabad

Chabad of Fountain Hills has purchased the landmark site of Gridleys, a former retail store that closed in May.

In its continuing efforts to keep up with increasing membership, Chabad of Fountain Hills has purchased the former site of Gridleys, a retail store that closed in May after 43 years in business.

Rabbi Mendy and Tzipi Lipskier founded Chabad of Fountain Hills in 2010, and for the first year, held classes and services in their home. They quickly outgrew that space and in 2011 leased 900 square feet of space on Saguaro

Boulevard in Fountain Hills, which is located on the eastern slope of the McDowell Mountains bordering Scottsdale at Shea Boulevard near 140th Street.

Within two years, there wasn’t enough room at the Saguaro Boulevard location to hold anything more than classes and a typical Saturday service, and Rabbi Lipskier said they had to rent space elsewhere for High Holiday services and other holiday programs.

The new location at 16830 E. Avenue of the Fountain, on the town’s main street, was one of the oldest retail businesses in Fountain Hills, Lipskier said. Their plan is to transform the 4,500-square-foot retail space into a worship and cultural center. The changes will include remodeling the interior of the building to include a sanctuary, social hall, kosher kitchen, classrooms and library. Lipskier anticipates remodeling will start this summer, with a target move-in date of December.

The estimated total cost of the project, which includes the purchase of the building and the renovations, is $750,000. Volunteers raised $300,000 in 24 hours for the building fund, Lipskier said. Like other Chabad centers around the world, there is no funding from a central organization; each center relies solely on the local community for support.

“We’ve been extremely encouraged and excited by the outpouring of support that we’ve received,” he said. “People really stepped up to the plate and have gone above and beyond to help us recognize our goal of creating a permanent Jewish presence and Jewish center for Fountain Hills.”

About 100 families participate in the Chabad of Fountain Hills’ programming, which currently includes monthly Saturday Shabbat services, monthly Friday-night dinners, adult education classes, social events and holiday programs.

“The new facility is going to have so much to offer the Jewish community,” said Shari Bender, who moved to Fountain Hills with her husband about a year ago after driving one hour from New River every week for several months to attend Chabad’s services and programs. She said the Lipskiers have “a welcoming warmth about them.”

“When you hear that you’re going to a Chabad and the rabbi is an Orthodox Jew — you’re not sure what to expect,” said Bender, who grew up in a Conservative home and described herself as “very Reform” when she first met the Lipskiers. “But there’s no judgment, there are no prerequisites, there’s no trying to get you to do any more than you’re comfortable with, which makes it easier to find a level of comfort.”

The new building, Bender added, will “help solidify the Jewish presence in the community.”

The town’s first synagogue, Congregation Beth Hagivot, was founded in 2003. The Reform congregation, led by spiritual leader Jessie Rubenstein, holds monthly Shabbat services, as well as holiday programming and social activities at Fountain Hills Methodist Church and other locations.

The relocation of Chabad of Fountain Hills to “the heart of our downtown on Avenue of the Fountains is a win-win for Chabad and the town,” said Fountain Hills Mayor Linda M. Kavanagh in a statement. “At a time when our town center is finally transforming from a quaint but small site to a vibrant downtown destination, Chabad’s presence will contribute to the energy of the new downtown and integrate Chabad even more into our community.” JN

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