As the Jewish New Year opened in Fountain Hills, Arizona, so did its new community center. Rabbi Mendy and Tzipi Lipskier inaugurated 4,500 square-foot center just in time for Rosh Hashana. “Having a new, beautiful and permanent home gets people excited and lets them know we’re here to stay,” Rabbi Mendy offered in a conversation with Lubavitch International.
Since their arrival in 2010 until this month, the Lipskiers have led services and communal events from their home and office on a quiet residential street. For the High Holidays and larger events, they would rent offices or event spaces.
No longer lacking space, the new Chabad Edelman Jewish Center enjoys a prime spot in the center of town. And there’s a backstory, shares Fountain Hills’ Outgoing Mayor Linda Kavanagh. When Rabbi Mendy approached her, several years ago, for her help in displaying a public menorah, Ms. Kavanagh found a prime location for it. The tradition deserved maximum exposure, she felt, so she placed the eight-branched candelabra in the center of downtown, close to the fountain for which the town gets its name. She could hardly believe it when the Rabbi introduced her to the the location of his new center. “It was directly opposite the menorah spot,” she exclaims. “Some may call that a coincidence, others a miracle, but I call it a gift to Fountain Hills.”
Fountain Hills is a small town with around 600 Jewish residents, most of whom are middle aged or older. During the last eight years, the Lipskiers have hosted weekly Shabbat dinners for thirty to forty-five people. Up to twenty women attend Tzipi’s monthly Women’s Circle. Their first Rosh Hashanah prayer service barely had the required quorum of ten men participating. Now, more than seventy families are intimately involved with Chabad, and it is their willingness to invest in it that has made the new center possible.
Tzipi describes the community’s support in raising funds for the one-million dollar center as “heartwarming.” The center includes a sanctuary, social hall and a Jewish public library which is open for outside research and study. “Passersby are stopping in to inquire about our programs in numbers we didn’t expect.” she says.
The downtown area is the only area in Fountain Hills that attracts foot traffic. During the annual Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts, half a million people visit the town center. As more young families look to make their home in the town, the area is seeing growing development. With this much exposure, the Lipskiers are hoping to expand their activities and to include classes for non-Jewish locals who have asked to learn more about the Jewish faith. “A site this central on Main Street means no one can miss us,” Rabbi Mendy exclaims.