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Fire station gets new mission: Jewish center Slated to become area’s first

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein The Press Tribune
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What: Chabad of Roseville Info: www.jewishroseville.com or 677-9960 The former fire station off Douglas Boulevard has sat empty for more than a year. But when Rabbi Yossi Korik looks around, he hears the sounds of children practicing their Hebrew. And a Jewish arts and music class. And a boisterous bar or bat mitzvah. They’re just some of the possibilities following Chabad of Roseville’s purchase of the structure, a former South Placer Fire District outpost. Last month, the 4-year-old Jewish congregation closed escrow on the building at 4410 Douglas Blvd. It paid the district $616,000 in a closed-bid auction, fire officials said. Korik plans to rehab the building’s interior and reopen it as a Jewish community center – the area’s first – in the next several months. “That was always the plan,” Korik, whose congregation until now has met in members’ homes and rented facilities, said of acquiring a facility for such a purpose. “But ultimately God runs the world and when the right time comes, it happens.” REACHING OUT, BUILDING COMMUNITY It’s been a long time coming for local Jews. Although several temples serve the greater Sacramento region, it wasn’t until Korik and wife Malkie moved here from New York in 2005 that south Placer had a congregation to call its own. The Koriks, members of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement -- a centuries-old Hasidic group – aim to “reach every Jew,” regardless of background or observance, they’re fond of saying. “The more we reach out, the more we realize how many more Jews there are here,” Korik said. “They’re hiding, a lot of them.” Avi Kama agrees. He grew up on an Israeli kibbutz and moved to Roseville in 1997 to be closer to his wife’s family in the Bay Area. But Kama soon discovered south Placer isn’t exactly New York or Los Angeles. First tip? The Jewish section at the supermarket. “Here, you’re lucky if you get a shelf,” Kama, who works for FedEx, said with a laugh. So when he read about Chabad coming to town, Kama decided to check it out. Fast forward a couple of years, and Kama said he never realized there were so many Jews in the region. “I don’t know the statistics but Rabbi Korik’s only been here a couple of years, and he’s managed to get that parcel and build up a congregation,” Kama said. “I think it’s a record time.” FINDING FUNDS TO MAKE DREAM A REALITY But with the economy still mired in recession, Korik’s dream came at one of the worst times in decades to ask a congregation for money. “We took a chance,” Korik admits about the capital campaign, which is still ongoing. “But the community was extremely generous because because everyone knows what’s going on. Everyone is pulling back.” That the project came off at all owes a lot to an unexpected source: the walk-in bathtub. That’s the booming business of Granite Bay resident Genndy Shapiro’s American Home Makeovers. He is putting up anywhere from $300,000 to $500,000 to the project to repay Chabad for contributing to his spiritual development, he said. “I felt there was something I could do to help the organization by donating funds toward closing the escrow as well as committing and pledging to do the majority if not all of the remodeling of the building,” he said. A SITE WITH A HISTORY Originally built in the 1950s, the three-bedroom home at Granite Bay’s front door was purchased by the fire district in the early-1960s and converted into a firehouse. A later project added a 1,350-square-foot garage. Crews moved to a new station in 2008. “From the fire department’s perspective, we think they’re going to be a great asset to the community,” Fire Chief Tony Corado, who worked his first shift there in 1979, said of the site’s new life. “And that money goes right back into the district’s facilities budget.” Korik said he sees the community center as “more than a synagogue.” Think classes, dances, children’s activities – though probably not weddings, Korik said. “The idea is we want every Jewish person in Placer County to feel this is their home and they automatically belong,” he said. Its history isn’t lost on Korik. “The fire station is there to save people’s lives, and we feel, from a spiritual sense, we’re here to bring people together and enhance people’s lives,” Korik said.