The mezuzot are in place and the ribbon has been cut.
The Chabad Cayman Jewish Community Center staged its grand opening on Sunday, welcoming nearly 100 people to Seven Mile Shops to celebrate the birth of the new facility.
The center will serve as a communal space for both residents and tourists, and it will also stand as an educational outlet for people of all ages from preschool all the way to adults.
Rabbi Berel Pewzner and his wife Rikal Pewzner, co-directors of Chabad of the Cayman Islands, said that this community center was part of their plans from the moment they arrived on Grand Cayman.
“Rikal and I have been on island for four years now,” said Rabbi Pewzner, “And we’ve really been blessed to serve this community and to watch it grow along with our family.
“When we got here, people asked, ‘Are you going to build a synagogue?’ We thought, ‘We need to get as much services available for those that are living here and visiting here.’ And primarily education, because every day in a child’s life is a lifetime. You want to get as much engagement in there as possible. Those have been our goals and the new opportunities the center offers are so exciting.”
The center, which consists of several rooms, will offer services for preschool students, teens and continuing education for adults. Mrs. Pewzner said young children will learn in the Gan Eden Playschool, which allows them to play with their peers and simultaneously learn about their heritage.
The younger children will learn about Judaism through art and music in addition to more traditional methods, and Jewish teens will be encouraged to find ways to improve their community.
“I think it’s experiential,” said Mrs. Pewzner, director of the center’s education programs. “You can read about Israel, but it doesn’t compare to going to visit Israel and seeing the sights with your eyes and smelling the smells of the markets and hearing the music. When you’re involved in all the senses, that’s when you really create an experience. And those experiences are hopefully positive and will last through their whole lives and form the foundation of all future learning and all their attitudes toward Judaism.”
Each of the doorways in the center is affixed with a mezuzah, a small parchment scroll that contains the words of the Shema Yisrael, one of the most powerful prayers in the Jewish religion.
The children of the local Jewish community have painted a mural of the Hebrew alphabet in the Playschool classroom, and Rabbi Pewzner said that the center will offer bar mitzvah lessons and also adult education seminars on the ancient roots of Judaism and its place in the modern world.
“The primary purpose is to serve as a home for the ever-growing number of programs and services that we offer for the local Jewish population,” said Rabbi Pewzner. “Our focus is on education and social programs. People many times ask, ‘What is the secret to Jewish survival over thousands of years in so many different circumstances?’ The answer – and it’s not unique to Judaism – really has always been our focus on education and also passing on the traditions from one generation to the next.”
Rabbi and Mrs. Pewzner stressed that several people – from interior designers to architects and contractors – offered their services gratis or at steep discounts to make the center happen. The center’s new logo – a combination of a menorah and a palm tree – is meant to symbolize the resilience of the Jewish people throughout the generations. For Rabbi Pewzner, it’s a thrill to see the Jewish community growing in Cayman and to anticipate where it can go in the years to come.
“We’re very blessed to live on this wonderful island that welcomes and accepts people of all faiths, nationalities, backgrounds and religions,” he said. “Cayman is truly a blessed place.”