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Gala launches $2.2M building campaign for new Flagstaff Jewish community center

Gala launches $2.2M building campaign for new Flagstaff Jewish community center

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Chabad Gala kicks off $2.2M building campaign

An Aug. 24 gala featuring a kosher meal catered by Chef Brad Littlejohn kicked off a fundraising campaign for a new building for the Chabad Jewish Community Center. (Courtesy photo)

On Aug. 24, more than 200 community members, supporters and friends of the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Flagstaff and Northern Arizona University gathered at the High Country Conference Center for their first gala celebration, titled “Forging the Future.” Chef Brad Littlejohn catered the kosher dinner. The evening attracted many distinguished guests, including Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick, Mayor Jerry Nabours, City Councilwoman Celia Barotz and Justice of the Peace Judge Howard Grodman. 

In 2006, the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Flagstaff opened its doors and has since grown into a communitywide organization. Chabad welcomes every person regardless of affiliation or style of observance. Over the past eight years, the community and student participation has continued to increase and has outgrown its current space. Thanks to the generosity of many donors, Chabad has acquired 2.2 acres of land in the heart of Flagstaff to build a permanent home. The Jewish Community Center will feature a synagogue, social hall, commercial kitchen, library, mikvah, classrooms, student lounge and guest suites.

The gala celebration launched the $2.2 million capital campaign for the building of the new center, and honored five couples from the community for their outstanding work on behalf of Jewish life in Flagstaff. 

The evening began with a cocktail hour that included a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and jazz music from local musicians. The momentum continued as Rabbi Dovie Shapiro welcomed the crowd and presented each honoree with their award, a hand-crafted crystal menorah. 

The honors began with Burt Gershater and Wendy Weed as they accepted the Lamplighter Award;  Michael and Carmen Blank were presented with the Chesed (Generosity) Award; Mark and Kali Thatcher accepted the Visionary Award; David Johns and Jill Harrison were presented with the Leadership Award; and Dr. Merrill and Rhoda Abeshaus received a standing ovation as they accepted the Lifetime Community Service Award.

During the prime rib dinner, the entertainment began with a live auction where many prizes were bid on, including safari trips, Cancun getaways and tickets to sporting events. This was followed by a video presentation showcasing the work and growth of Chabad in Flagstaff over the past eight years. 

The evening ended with dessert and entertainment by world-renowned mentalist Marc Salem, who has been featured on “60 Minutes” and Broadway. 

For more information about the Chabad Jewish Community Center of Flagstaff, visit or call 255-5756.


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