Rabbi Yosef Konikov walks through the high-end former Brazilian company headquarters — all marble, chrome, leather and glass — and envisions a Jewish center that brings together both locals and tourists.
The future Chabad Center of Jewish Life, which will have its symbolic groundbreaking Sunday, will occupy an 11,000-square-foot office building on Sand Lake Road’s Restaurant Row and within easy reach of International Drive.
“Although we are mostly gearing toward the community, we are very conscious about the needs of the tourists,” said Konikov, 40, director of the Chabad of South Orlando.
The Chabad serves as a something like a clearinghouse for Jewish visitors looking for places to eat and pray.
“Whenever I travel, the first thing I do is contact the local Chabad and ask where can I get kosher food, where can I pray and when are services?” said Eric Kessous, 48, a kosher restaurant owner who has been attending the Chabad of South Orlando for about 20 years.
The Chabad’s current location on Universal Boulevard already attracts Jews looking for a place to worship while on vacation. The move to Sand Lake Drive will raise its visibility and profile.
The new center will include a synagogue, pre-school and elementary classrooms, and social hall for events and religious holidays.