WAVERLY TWP. — Rabbi Benny Rapoport celebrated two events during a gathering Sunday — the first day of Hanukkah, and the grand opening of the new Jewish Discovery Center (JDC).
After years of being housed at temporary sites, the center finally has a permanent home at 216 Miller Road that will serve Scranton, the Abingtons and surrounding areas in northeastern Pennsylvania.
A native of Wisconsin, Rapoport created the center in 2001. The JDC has grown steadily over the years and was in need of a permanent home. Three years ago, a capital campaign was launched that culminated in the construction of the new 5,000 square foot facility.
“Over the years, we’ve used different venues such as the mall, JCC (Scranton Jewish Community Center), parks, The University of Scranton, Montage (Mountain) and we needed permanent space, and three years ago we started looking and bought these 20 acres,” said Rapoport, co-director with his wife, Chana. “We wanted a place to learn and grow.”
The JDC features a community room, Judaic library, youth center and classroom, kosher catering kitchen, outdoor pool, mediation gardens and a public playground.
Events such as adult education programs, lectures, classes, holiday parties, festivals and social services will be held at the JDC. Meals will also be delivered from the site to senior citizens.
Mark Silverberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of NEPA, was on hand for the event. “It was always the plan of Chabad, from the moment they came into NEPA 15 years ago, to establish a center for Jewish education and Jewish learning,” Silverberg said.
Silverberg said the Jewish Federation of NEPA has been involved in funding the capital enterprise project and enjoys seeing the project to fruition. “He (Rabbi Rapoport) surrounded himself with the best people, the best designers, best contractors and the result is he built an unbelievably beautiful facility and it will be a benefit for decades to come,” he said.
Those involved with the project are appreciative of the community’s support throughout the completion of the project.
“We are very pleased with the response that we have received from the community,” said Richard Schwartz, Jewish Discovery Center board member. “We’ve received anything from $25 to $250 to $25,000 and all little amounts add to bigger amounts; everybody has a stake in the project.”
Ann Wadika, her husband, Mark, and daughter, Michelle, have been involved with the center for years.
“This is great because we have nothing like it here,” Ann said of the new JDC. “Rabbi Benny is great with getting the children involved with the Jewish faith and the new facility will offer even more to the children.”
Rapoport was grateful for the attendance and support from the community.
“This is an amazing turnout; I cannot believe the turnout,” he said. “There are probably 200 people here and I’m so thankful. God smiling. I’m so thankful to the wonderful community that is our community and this is just the beginning.”