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Downtown Jewish Center Chabad is Fort Lauderdale's Center for Jewish life

By S. Mathur

The Downtown Jewish Center Chabad (DJCC) - Bet Ovadia is the regional headquarters of Chabad, and has been active in the Fort Lauderdale community since 2000. Devorah Kaplan, who co-directs the center with her husband and spiritual leader Rabbi Schneur Kaplan, explains that the Center is a welcoming place where everyone can feel at home: "Our ultimate goal is to be a home for everything and everyone Jewish, regardless of background or affiliation. People know they have a place to go for any lifecycle event, holiday event, educational class, inspiration or just a good meal." There are no membership dues or building funds, and people can participate 'a la carte'.

The Center's philosophy is based on the teachings of the spiritual leader Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. As well as reaching out to all Jews with unconditional love, the Rebbe's teachings also emphasize that "we must work together with people of good will of all faiths, to make the world a better place by promoting acts of goodness and kindness."

Innovative programs make sure that the Center stays current with the community's needs. The Center's programs serve all age groups, including children, youth, women and young professionals. J-FLYP or Jewish Fort Lauderdale Young Professionals brings together "men and women between the ages of 20-30's to socialize, network, party and exchange ideas and views about religion and Judaism. It is a fabulous community effort to network and of course it is a great opportunity to find a soulmate!"

Kaplan says that events at the Center are both religious and fun, like a recent "grand masquerade Purim party at VIBE it was attended by over 500 young professionals and singles. The event was part religious and part party! We hired a famous Jewish reggae artist to sing live and we read the story of Purim from the traditional Biblical scroll of the Megillah followed by great partying music and fun! All while in costume."

The Grillin' and Chillin' barbecues are another favorite, with an open door policy and a social atmosphere. Like other events at the Center, they are a way to connect and learn, says Kaplan, "as well as enjoy some great Jewish music as the Rabbi plays the guitar and sings."

Kaplan feels that the Center is important to the Jewish community and to Fort Lauderdale at large, and that the Center has a great relationship with the community and the neighbors: "We share values and goals to make Fort Lauderdale a wonderful safe place to live. We have been here for 15 years and have watched the community grow and flourish. We have been here for hundreds of families as a place to connect to G-d, our friends and family."

Don't forget that DJCC has something for all ages with their brand new Reggio inspired Preschool, Music Together Mommy n' Me and cool Hebrew School! DJCC is truly the place to join at ANY age.

Plans for the future include building a five-story community center with a restaurant, preschool, gym , sanctuary, and social hall.

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