The building of the first Orthodox synagogue in Puerto Rico was launched this week in a tourist area, just outside of San Juan, with a ceremony of laying cornerstone. This project is promoted by the Chabad of Puerto Rico , one of the fastest growing Hasidic movements in the world. It will require an investment of $5.5 million from the Orthodox Jews living on the island and foreign businessmen.
"It will be the first ( Orthodox ) synagogue which is built from head to toe in Puerto Rico , and the first "mikveh" of the island," according to Rabbi Levi Stein, director of Welcome Chabad Center in the Caribbean island.
The new project will build in Isla Verde, just outside of San Juan, on a piece of land that for the paast seven years had hosted this organization but until now had a much more modest building that was used for similar purposes. With a 11,000 square feet (about thousand square meters) , the new Chabad Jewish Center of Puerto Rico will also have a commercial social lounge, kosher food kitchen to offer to residents and visitors, classrooms for Hebrew school and preschool care. The idea is that this new center will serve the more than two thousand Jews living in the vicinity, as well as thousands more Jews that visit Puerto Rico every year.
"The new building will have a permanent presence," said the rabbi and according to him it will also “help us create community" in Puerto Rico, where the largest Jewish community in the Caribbean lives.
So far, in Puerto Rico there were a Reform synagogue since the 60s and another conservative from the 40s, but none specifically built by Orthodox Jews.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla, participated in the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of this "important” project for the island which is due to attract an investment a fact that represents this period of "economic recovery", he said.
The ceremony was also attended by the Executive Director of the Tourism Company of Puerto Rico, Ingrid Rivera Rocafort as well as leading figures in the Jewish community on the island.