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September 3, 2004     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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September 3, 2004

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PAGE 30 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS Watson Realty Corp. REALTORS~ Randy Ames, ABR, GRI REALTOR~ PINNACLE CLUB Serving Buyers & Sellers Since 1990 1425 West Highway 434, Suite lOI Longwood, Florida 32750-3847 4071622-8503 1-800-943-6444 x 109 Fax 407/767-5989 E-Mail: By Brian Harris SAN JOSE, Costa Rica 0TA)--This Rosh Hashanah, the Israeli-Zionist Center, Costa Rica's most prominent synagogue, will welcome the new year in a new, spacious and--according to some observers--ostentatious new synagogue. The building, complete with bomb-safe walls and bulletproof windows, will greatly increase the vis- ibility of Orthodox Jewry in BET CHAIM A Reform Congregation Invites you to worship with them during the HIGH HOLY DAYS Maitland Civic Center Officiating. Rabbi Philip Aronson Tickets: Single: $100.00 * Family: $250.00 (Entitles you to a 3 month trial membership) For information or tickets call: 407-830-7211 We're Known for Bringing Something to the Party/ We've added exceptional quality to hundreds of occasions with personalized servic Flexible arrangements Creative Menu's Exquisite Details Attentive Service Beautiful Settings Convenient Location BEST Value in Town For Professional Planning and lnfornu~ion, Please call (407) 996-9700 Ask for Frank Erwin extension 1714 or Kelth K~ extension 1704 in the Catering Department Adjacent to the Orlando~Orange County Convention Center HOTEL 9700 lnternatiotud Dtice Orlando, Floridm 32819 C-~eck out our Website at this predominately Catholic country and, some say, may prove to bolster Jewish prac- tice here. But the synagogue com- plex, located on the west- ern fringe of the city at a congested intersection that already is a source of rush hour angst, has also found critics both within and out- side of the community. "There already is a rebirth of Judaism in Costa Rica," says Gustavo Prifer, presi- dent of the 2,500-member congregation, as he surveys construction crews scur- rying to put the finishing touches on the 17,000- square-meter complex. "We have always had the faith but when one is given better fa- cilities, it grows." Still, not everyone's a believer. Critics within the mem- bership of the center, which serves 90 percent of the count ry's 3,000 Jews, refused to comment on the record, citing a fear of reprisal. But it is clear that the issue has strained internal relations and led the center to devote sizable portions of its bul- letin, Hayom, to promoting the new site. The complex has just 134 parking spots and, although many residents live nearby and will walk to services, security considerations have mandated opening just a sin- gle entrance to the shul on a road that is already crowded most of the day. To date, talks among the community, area residents and the government on how to handle traffic flows at the new synagogue have failed to yield a solution, Further aggravating some naysayers is the fact that the new complex, which will boast a community mu- seum, activities areas and administrative facilities, will drive the center roughly $2.5 million into debt as it works to finish the $11 mil- lion project. Many dissidents within the Jewish community and other locals disparagingly dismiss the buff-colored low-rise as the "Jewish mall," a reference to the seemingly unending construction here of suburban malls. The new synagogue will hold 1,000 people without any obstructed views, a marked improvement over the 50-year-old facility currently in use, which holds 600 worshipers and is poorly equipped for emergency evacuations and people with mobility difficulties. The old building, located in a deteriorating part of this city's crowded and crime-ridden downtown, has been sold to a Brazil-based Christian sect. Though it has a greater seating capacity than its predecessor, the new syna- gogue-even when filled with scaffolding, dust and the noise of busy construc- tion crews--has a distinctly more intimate feel. When the buzz saws are silent and the hammering done, it apparently also will have improved acoustics. Unlike services at its prede- cessor, prayers in the new shul will not constantly be interrupted by noise from the unmuffled exhaust sys- tems of passing busses that Costa Rica's Israeli-Zionist Center Gustavo Prifer stands in front of the new community is erecting. The [ rior was, meters of the in San Jose, Costa Rica. in the past have created a sanity-challenging roar. Becuase it is an Orthodox synagogue, women will be seated on the second tier, but will find themselves much closer to the rabbi than they are at the current location, where the women's balcony rings the synagogue's outer extremes. Part of the new shurs walls and facade are covered in stone quarried near Jerusa- lem, one of the architectural highlights of the complex. Skylights in the exteriors are designed to cast a shadow in the form of the Star of David in entrances. "The word to describe this project is 'exquisite,'" construction manager Rudy Guerrasaid."Thissynagogue is much more elegant, sober and inviting than any other~ in Latin America." And, al- though Costa Rica has thus far been exempt from the terrorist attacks that have affected Jewish communi- ties worldwide--including Argentina and neighboring Panama--it is also one of the few synagogues built with terrorism in mind. More than 15,000 cubic meters of poured concrete were used in constructing the center, which is sur- rounded by a 20-inch-thick wall designed to resist bomb blasts. Metal sheeting pro- tects the single exposed porch fromsnipers. Israeli security experts were con- sulted during construction of the shul, which Prifer admits "is a bunker." Such security measures are un- usual in this peaceful coun- try. Costa Rica dissolved its army in 1948 and is one of Latin America's most stable democracies. "We have to learn from others' tragedies," Prifer explained. "What happened twice in Argentina cannot be ignored." Still, with its price tag, size, and prominent lo- cation, the new synagogue continues to elicit protests. Some have expressed worries that it will serve as an obvi- ous target for anti-Semitic attacks. The emphasis on security is also seen by some as an unfriendly statement. "I see it as gasoline on the fire of anti-Semitism, though fortunately the fire is only a flickering candle here," said U.S. Reform Rabbi Mike Holtzman, who recently finished a one-year contract with the local B'nai Israel temple. Although Holtzman, like most of the critics, had se l from the outside, theless called it ostentatious ers find the $4 price for to a single seats sold equally particularly in a country nual per capita under $4,000, serve to reinforce perception that community is Those concerns explain why 200 seats in the remained months before it.' although virtua family with seatS,~ facility has at the new one. Once open site upkeep ing will continue the While more was raised tions, staffing citizen center recreational further tax Prifer admits struction was at slowedb, which the company a three-r ishing the job. But commun "hope that tions for local the new the centers for the elderly, the once again point in the increasingly community. placed on growinl the whose ranks the center emigrating from the 1930s. also be placed on a the gra founders, who to want to soccer match as want to go to "When peel 'Wh add-ons?' mY is that when down you you" worldwide is turn way to improve riding the that it needs."