Photo courtesy of the Upper Hudson Library System
Bethlehem Chabad moves into historic Adams House in time for high holiday
BETHLEHEM—Less than two weeks after they closed on the long-vacant property, the newest tenants of Delmar’s historic Adams House, Bethlehem Chabad, were moved into their new home in time to celebrate the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur on Wednesday, Oct. 12.
“Community members really pitched in to clean the building, remove some furniture and set up for the high holidays,” said Rabbi Zalman Simon, a Delmar native who returned home almost six years ago to help co-direct the Chabad with its founder, his father, Rabbi Nachman Simon. “We will continue to update the building gradually, we just wanted to use the space right away.”
Changes to the well known building will be minimal, according to the rabbi and plans that have been submitted to the Town of Bethlehem. “The charm and the style of the building is something we plan on keeping the same,” said Simon, explaining that the decking will likely be replaced, the exterior painted and the grounds landscaped. “But it won’t really look any different. That’s the same for the interior as well—we plan on keeping the building the way it is, but updating it with carpet, paint, fixtures and so on.”
When Simon moved back to the area with his wife in January 2011, Bethlehem Chabad was called Delmar Chabad and they returned with the intention of helping to rebrand and expand the organization’s outreach activities, beginning with renaming the Chabad to reflect the larger Jewish community they wished to reach. In early 2011, Bethlehem Chabad was serving approximately 25 families in the area; in 2016, those numbers have grown to approximately 100 households on a regular basis and closer to 300 on significant religious holidays. For the last three and a half years, they’ve been holding services, classrooms and other activities in a small storefront property on Kenwood Ave. at Delmar’s Four Corners.
In the search for a new property to accommodate the growth in community and programming, Bethlehem Chabad was limited in its search by certain factors such as the prohibition against driving on Shabbat and certain holidays, which necessitated a property within walking distance of that growing community, but also had adequate space and parking to serve their other needs. “That’s what led us to this location,” said Simon. “It’s very exciting, not only for me but for the community. Everyone is very excited about this new location. It has a grand look and a great amount of space for growth. We’re a nonprofit, so it’s with the community’s support—both financially and with their time and energy—that we’ve been able to do this and to get the building ready.”
The 7,320 square-foot Adams House at 393 Delaware Ave. was built as a hotel in the Greek revivalist style by Delmar founder Nathaniel Adams in 1836. Since 1920, it has been home to the Delmar Fire Company, Bethlehem Town Hall and, most recently, a nonprofit for the developmentally disabled. It has been vacant since NYSARC Trust Services moved to Latham last December.
“It’s great to have to have the Bethlehem Chabad staying in the Four Corners area as their space needs grow,” said Supervisor John Clarkson, “and to have the Adams Hotel back in use. It’s a perfect place for a synagogue and I look forward to their annual Chanukah celebration every year.”
Simon looks forward to pursuing more community outreach out of the new space and believes that the historic significance of the building will be an asset. “We cater to the entire demographic, from kids to seniors, both religiously and also socially and so on,” said Simon. Chabad institutions around the world are well known for providing not only outreach, but humanitarian aid, educational opportunities and community activities—both to orthodox and non-orthodox Jews, as well as the broader community. Programming offered at Bethlehem Chabad includes adult classes on Judaism as well as both women’s and men’s groups, a kid’s club and senior services.
“Building on the foundation of the past,” said the elder Rabbi Simon, “Bethlehem Chabad looks forward to a bright future in its historic home.”
“We plan on building a sukka, which the community is going to help out with, on Sunday,” said Simon on the day after Yom Kippur. A “temporary hut” built for the Jewish Festival of Sukkot, which began on Sunday evening (Oct. 16), a sukka provides a temporary dwelling meant to commemorate the 40 years of wandering as told in the Book of Leviticus. “It’s an eight-day festival,” said the rabbi. “And it will be open for the community, so anyone who wants to come by and check it out or use it.” In addition to its historical significance, Sukkot can also be considered a Jewish harvest holiday and religious observers will gather in the sukka to eat meals.
The new space, said Simon, already feels more like home and its size allows for much more activity. “Now the community has a sense of ownership, not just of the building but also the organization. They feel like they’re a part of it—which is great.”