Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 8, 2014
Opening marks first JCC west of Denver in the state
Hundreds of people made their way to Main Street for the opening of the new Chabad Jewish Community Center.
Outside the 10,550-square-foot building that houses the synagogue at 436 W. Main Street, a trio played classical music as rabbi Mendel Mintz posed for a photo with his wife and five children.
“Your family is so big, it’s hard to get them all in a picture,” said the photographer.
The center’s opening is significant, because it indicates that there is a strong, proud Jewish community in Aspen, Mintz said in an interview Thursday morning. The JCC is the first synagogue and mikvah — a bath used for ritual immersion — west of Denver in the state, according to Mintz.
“This is a paradigm change,” Mintz said. “This is a new era in the annals of Aspen.”
Although construction started two years ago, the $18 million center has been in the works for more than a decade, when the Jewish Resource Center originally purchased the property, Mintz said.
“I knew it was going to happen, I just was hoping I would be a live to see it,” Mintz said.
The center is located between Third and Fourth streets on a block that was previously the home to L’Auberge d’Aspen tourist cabins. Six of the L’Auberge cabins remain on the site for housing and guest accommodations. The remaining three cabins were deemed historic and moved off site.
“It’s been quite the journey,” Mintz said of the project.
The original plan for the JCC included a 4,500-square-foot social hall next to the building that houses the synagogue, the rabbi’s offices and classrooms. In 2012, the developer changed the plan and replaced the social hall with a 3,500-square-foot, single-family home for Mintz and future rabbis.
Mintz moved his family from New York City to Aspen 14 years ago. He knew Aspen had a Jewish community that had the potential to thrive here, he said. However, the process to get the center approved through the city was lengthy and challenging, he said.
“But everything that is good in life is not easy,” Mintz added. “That’s my philosophy.”
During the opening reception on Thursday, hundreds of people made their way through the lobby to the synagogue on the second floor. The synagogue has high ceilings and an A-frame roof with square glass windows. Outside, a balcony wraps around the side of the building overlooking the L’Auberge cabins and a large lot being excavated for the Mintz family’s future home.
There was standing-room only in the synagogue as U.S. rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, took the stage. After Tipton’s short remarks, Democratic state rep. Millie Hamner and Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron spoke. Three donors who contributed funds to the construction of the center also spoke, along with Mintz.
The center does not have an official membership, Mintz noted.
“It’s a place for everyone from the community,” he said. “I would love for people to come out, take a tour and see for themselves.”
The center will have a preschool and Hebrew school, and there will be regular lecture series held at the center, Mintz said. To find up-to-date information on events happening at the center visit http://www.chabad.org.