In celebration, Aspen’s Chabad Jewish center welcomes all
December 21, 2014
Two years ago, Rabbi Mendel Mintz and his congregation would throw one or two parties during Hanukkah, but this year, with the opening of a 19,000-square-foot Chabad Jewish Community Center on Main Street, the group is enjoying at least six different events.
"Having our own home and seeing the amount of people in it and participating has truly been humbling and amazing," Mintz said.
Among the events was Saturday's "Fifth Night of Chanukah" with Israeli General Doron Almog, who served in the Israeli Defense Forces for more than 35 years. Almog discussed one of the biggest challenges — raising an autistic son — as well as his career that spanned the Yom Kippur War through the Entebe Operation.
"It has been amazing, the amount of people that have been coming in, the amount of the events that have been happening here, not just Jewish events but community events," Mintz said. "It's truly been amazing."
Other events include today's $20 "Frozen Chanukah," a family event centered around ice skating and dinner and Monday's $20 Menorah Lighting during a Monday Night Football matchup between the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals. Also Monday, the center kicks off Winter Camp, a five-day event for children ages 3 to 12 that centers around holiday activities, indoor sports, science, cooking, baking, music and dance.
Alan Tralins, who served on the center's board during the planning and development of the new facility, has three children enrolled in the Hebrew school. Although Tralins praised the center for providing education about Judaism, compassion and spirituality all under one roof, like Mintz, he stressed the goal is to have it open to all of Aspen.
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"It wasn't meant to be for one small group of individuals to practice," Tralins said. "It's built as a community center. So whether you're Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Jewish, it doesn't matter. Nor is the rabbi interested in having people convert to something they aren't."
Before the center was constructed, Mintz and his congregation would gather for events at the St. Regis Aspen Resort or the Hotel Jerome. He estimates the group's budget has since quadrupled, while staff has become between two and three times bigger. Tralins described the facility as a community center with a flexible synagogue.
In a town known for its culture, Tralins said the goal is to hold lectures, conferences, parties and weddings, augmenting what already exists in Aspen. With open, scenic views of Independent Pass, Red Mountain and Aspen Mountain, he said the center provides additional, above-ground event space.
"It opens up one other venue, and everything is flexible," Tralins said. "Furniture, things along that line, nothing is screwed into the ground like a normal church or a synagogue."
Family, friends and spirituality is what the center is about, Tralins said, calling it a blessing and a feel-good gathering spot.