Just two years after Chabad Lubavitch of Atlantic County opened a synagogue in the heart of Ventnor City's business district — in a small storefront above an ice-cream shop — the shul known as Chabad at the Shore has moved to a larger location, one that its rabbi hopes will serve as a permanent home.
Memorial Day weekend celebrated the opening of Chabad's new site at 6412 Ventnor Ave. — just two blocks from the beach and the boardwalk — in a building that was once used as a theater, then as a child-care center, according to Rabbi Avrohom Rapoport, the shul's 27-year-old religious leader.
It's also conveniently right next door to the Jerusalem Glatt Kosher Restaurant, which also served as one of the shul's temporary homes. On its other side is a Latin restaurant.
Rapoport said that the congregation quickly outgrew its original storefront, which was also located on Ventnor Avenue. That room was often overcrowded during services, he said.
"We could never have more than 75 people at a dinner or program," explained the rabbi. "The room wasn't designed to be a shul."
Then, for about six months, Chabad was able to hold Saturday-morning services and a kiddish luncheon in the Jerusalem Restaurant, which involved moving all the tables and chairs, and then setting them all up again once Shabbat was over.
But to truly grow as a congregation and organization, the shul needed a larger and less transient spot, said Rapoport.
Now they're in a 2,000-square-foot space — one that Chabad is leasing, but expects to remain in for a number of years.
The rabbi said that the building's owners granted permission for certain renovations, which included getting rid of the stage so that everything is on one level. In May, Ventnor City also granted permission for the site to be used as a synagogue, according to the rabbi.
For more than two decades, Chabad of Atlantic County has run Jewish programs throughout the South Jersey area.
The outreach group, founded by Rapoport's father, Shmuel Rapoport, is headquartered in Margate, N.J., near the newly refurbished Milton and Betty Katz Jewish Community Center.
While services are held there as well, that building is much farther from both the beach and Ventnor's business district — not to mention downtown Atlantic City — than the new Chabad at the Shore space.
Chabad also rents a storefront in Margate — on a bustling part of Ventnor Avenue — called Crafts for Kids, which holds art-related workshops for children during the summer, including a challah-making and baking class every Friday morning.