Aspen is known for skiing, stunning vistas and a crowd that includes celebrities of all kinds. Very soon, it will also be known for a brand-new, state-of-the-art building—offering Jewish amenities of all kinds—reflecting the contextual design of Colorado’s rustic landscape.
On Aug. 7—smack-dab in the middle of tourist season—the Aspen Jewish community and its guests will gather for the opening of an $18 million mega Jewish community center and what is to be the first synagogue in the state west of Denver; in fact, what is to be the largest Jewish center all the way to the Pacific Coast.
With a general population of about 6,500 and with 400 or so Jewish locals, this culmination of 10 years of communal efforts is no small feat.
“Aspen is a unique destination for leaders in all kinds of fields; it attracts a certain type of individual. It’s a resort community that offers natural beauty, arts, culture, and is a hub for conferences and seminars—there’s quite a lot going on here,” says Rabbi Mendel Mintz, co-director of Chabad Jewish Community Center Aspen Valley with his wife, Leiba, who directs the Hebrew school.
The Chabad center in the heart of the Roaring Fork Valley is 200 miles from Denver, about a four-hour drive away and, until now, the location of the nearestmikvah, or Jewish ritual bath. In just two weeks, the new mikvah in Aspen will open.
According to the rabbi, the new center sits on an entire block on the town’s main street and can’t help but be noticed. “It’s seen by everyone on a daily basis. We’re within walking distance of any hotel—the farthest is about a mile away in a town that’s only about two miles wide.
“That makes it easy to come to Shabbatdinner or walk to services or to classes—really anything,” he says. “We are the central address of serving Jewish needs for local residents and guests alike. If someone needschallah for Shabbat or to say Kaddish, we are here in an easily accessible place.”
Prime tourist season runs Thanksgiving through April, and during July and August, when Aspen becomes a whirlwind of activity—the population swells to double and even triple its numbers—and many Jewish visitors look for a place for their spiritual needs. During summer, they also make good use of Chabad’s Gan Israel camp for children.
The new facility will provide ample space for the preschool, “Mommy & Me” program, Hebrew school (65 children currently attend), youth/teen center and summer camp, in addition to a spacious synagogue, a ballroom and multipurpose area, offices and classrooms.
Those scheduled to attend the grand opening include Dawn Arnall, wife of the late U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Ambassador Roland Arnall; Warren Lichtenstein, chairman and CEO of Steel Partners LLC; Russian businessman, investor and politician Roman Abramovich; Gerald Hines, founder and chairman of the private real estate firm Hines; and Ephraim “Effie” Gildor, president of the Gildor Foundation—all of whom have contributed significantly to the project. Speakers will include Arnall; Gerald Hines’ wife, Barbara; Lichtenstein; Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton; and Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, is also slated to address the audience.
Mintz and his wife are from the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., but their six children were born in Aspen, where the couple arrived more than 14 years ago. And for the record, they do ski—most of the kids and the rabbi, who learned on the Colorado slopes.
The grand-opening celebration will take place on Thursday, Aug. 7, at 5 p.m. at Chabad Jewish Community Center, 435 West Main Street, Aspen.To learn more about the center, see jccaspen.com.