BE prepared to be flabbergasted.
Not because the new synagogue in Aspen is hands down the nicest in the region.
Not because this is the most successful, completed capital campaign in Colorado Jewish history.
Not because you no longer need to choose between a synagogue and nature in order to pray at your best.
Not because the dream was compromised: the synagogue is much more than a synagogue.
Its a community center.
A banquet hall.
A home away from home.
Not to mention, an art gallery.
A retreat center.
A conference center.
A business center.
A kids gym.
Library and classrooms.
Not, not because of all this may we say that nothing of the dream was compromised.
But this: the people.
The human capital.
THE grand opening of the long awaited Aspen JCC last Aug. 7 was not just an event for Jews in Aspen.
Or for Jews who visit Aspen.
It was an event for Aspen.
For the city.
Jewish and non-Jewish.
Aspen, not just the Jewish community of Aspen, was beautified, lifted to a new plane, added onto, by this center.
Which is why citizens of Aspen, Jewish and non-Jewish, flowed into the grand opening.
And spoke at it.
Gloried in it.
If a new museum adds to all of Aspen, not just to its art lovers, likewise a Jewish center. It adds to all of Aspen.
The human capital here was a beautiful coming together of the city.
Thats just one part.
BE prepared to be flabbergasted . . .
This Jewish community center has the widest reach of any such center in the US.
Its grand opening, Aug. 7, was for Chabad-affiliated Jews.
Equally, for Jews from around the country.
For Jews who otherwise pray in the Reform temple in Brookline, Massachusetts or who do not pray at all.
At the grand opening, alongside the Jews from the Roaring Fork Valley were Jews from Denver and Newport Beach, California, and Austin, Texas, and points too numerous to tally.
The new Aspen Jewish Community Center is Jewish in its mission; community in its reach; and a center in its design.
Walk in, youre not greeted by a synagogue foyer.
Youre greeted by a fireplace.
This new center is an extension of home.
A home away from home.
Thats why it took 10 years of planning, designing, redesigning, funding, zoning and dreaming.
It is a complex entity.
Yet beautiful in its simplicity and unity the way its diverse parts flow into each other.
And flow outside to the gorgeous mountains of Aspen.
Stand in this center, on the second floor, in the synagogue so brilliantly and simply designed that the light from the sky and the view of the mountains are contiguous with you via huge windows and huge skylights.
They create a prayer setting unlike any other.
They take you outside into nature, even as youre inside the synagogue.
Instead of gazing at walls, you can gaze at the mountains.
I lift up mine eyes to the mountains, says the Psalmist.
Recite that psalm inside the synagogue section of the new Aspen JCC, and see the mountains outside.
Inside and outside join.
PHRASES from the grand opening ceremony by different speakers:
Whats good enough for yesterday is not good enough for today.
Use the word when, not if.
We wanted a building that would be a source of pride to the Aspen community, by the standards of Aspen.
A city with a mere 10,000 permanent residents stepped up.
. . . grew from humble beginnings.
. . . ties together the Jewish community of Aspen.
Kimberly urged me to come to meet the rabbi, to come to the Chanukah celebration. I saw, there were no strings attached. No preconceived strings. The Mintzes will accept anyone. His teachers were able to connect to our children.
You know its good when your kids come home and ask if they can go to Hebrew school more than once a week.
. . . total cost, $18 million dollars; endowment goal, $10 million, just launched with an anonymous matching challenge of $1.8 million.
It feels like an extension of your own home. Fireplace. Sofa. My kids can play here.
. . . first Jewish community center built between Denver and Salt Lake City.
The finance committee. The building committee. Pages of prospective donors from around the country. But Rabbi Mintz had better luck connecting to Wall Street traders than the whole committee combined. He must have had a prior life on Wall Street.
I googled Chabad Aspen and Mendel Mintz popped up. Within one-half hour he was in our home by the river with our son . . .
If you can conceive it, you can achieve it.
. . . until our classrooms are packed, until our center is filled with symposia, cultural endeavors, retreats . . . we cannot stop climbing higher and higher . . . our work has just begun . . .
I travel 300 days a year. Ive seen 1,000 Chabad houses. This is in the top 10.
That was heard over and over again. Beloved as in Rabbi Mendel and Lieba Mintz.
AS was said, Grew from humble beginnings.
When Rabbi Mendel and Lieba Mintz came to Aspen 14 years ago, they knew no one.
Now, not only is the community center built, its hired another four full time staff.
Its for prayer, symposia and retreats, yes; but also for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and for weddings which are already booked.
Kosher food is brought from Denver and elsewhere, but prepared by the centers professional chef. If the elegant catering at the grand opening is any indication, that cuisine will be gourmet indeed.
And . . . the cabins.
Theyll be ready in April, 2015.
They can be used any time, including Shabbos.
Theyre for short stays.
On a donations basis.
Food available from the Aspen JCC.
Including Shabbos dinners.
Chabad Jewish Community Center of Aspen is dedicated to providing every Jew, regardless of background, philosophy or level of commitment, an open door environment for strengthening and enhancing Jewish family life.
Test this, next time youre in Aspen.
Be prepared to be flabbergasted.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News