Chabad of Flagstaff will host a groundbreaking ceremony this weekend for its new home, The Molly Blank Jewish Community Center.
The ceremony will be held 1-3 p.m., Sunday, March 26, at the site of the new center, at 930 W. University Ave., Flagstaff.
Rabbi Dovie and Chaya Shapiro founded the Flagstaff Chabad in 2006, and the organization acquired 2.2 acres of land a few years ago to build a permanent home. The new 11,500-square foot facility, which is about a five-minute walk from its current location, will include a synagogue, social hall, kosher kitchen, student and youth lounge, library, classrooms, outdoor terraces and a mikvah.
Construction is expected to start this spring and plans are for it to be completed by summer of next year, according to Rabbi Shapiro. The architect is Jim Shelton of The Beck Group.
This weekend’s event will include activities and entertainment, and feature special guests such Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, city council members and the chief of police, as well as Northern Arizona University Provost Daniel L. Kain.
“This is the beginning of a new and exciting era for the Flagstaff Jewish Community” said Rabbi Shapiro in a press release “This soon to be, state-of-the-art center will allow us to better serve our ever expanding community of Jewish families, students and young professionals.”
Shapiro estimates that there are 500 Jewish households in Flagstaff and 700 Jewish students at NAU, as well as about 300 households whose second homes are in the area.
The $4.6 million campaign for the new facility included a $2 million challenge grant from the Molly Blank Fund; the fund offered to donate $2 million if the community raised $1 million. “That’s really what got the project off the ground,” Shapiro said.
Molly Blank, who lived in Atlanta, died on Jan. 7, 2015 at age 99. For more than a decade, she would visit her son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Carmen Blank of Paradise Valley, during the summer months they spend in Flagstaff.
She enjoyed the pines and the fresh air, as well as the Shabbat services and dinners at the rabbi’s home, said her son Michael.
“We got to know Molly when she would come to Flagstaff to be with her son and she would come to different events and Shabbat dinners and she just loved the work that we were doing, especially with the college students and the youth,” Shapiro said. “To see young Jews involved in their Judaism meant a lot to her.”
The Blanks knew that it was important for her to see that the NAU students had a place to develop and maintain their
Judaism and “she enjoyed being a part of the young people’s celebration,” her son said.
Her other son, Arthur Blank, is the founder of The Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
“We hope it will be a lasing monument to her beliefs,” said Michael Blank, “and I’m sure she’s looking down and smiling about it.”
Chabad of Flagstaff offers Jewish education, outreach and social service programming for families and individuals of all ages, backgrounds and affiliations. For more information, visit.jewishflagstaff.com.