Chabad Inaugurates New JCC in Daytona Beach

Chabad Inaugurates New JCC in Daytona Beach

Rabbi Morris Esformes with Rabbi Pinchas Ezagui (

by Dvora Lakein - Daytona, FL

May 20, 2008

( Daytona Beach evokes images of NASCAR’S most prestigious race, the country’s largest motorcycle rally, and college students’ first choice for spring break. That it has a long history as a beacon to American Jewry may be rather astounding. In 1820, Moses Levy, a wealthy Jewish northerner, purchased 100,000 acres of land here as a haven for Jews escaping persecution. Local Jews marveled at his son’s election to the U.S. Senate as Florida’s first senator and later congratulated another Jewish Daytonan on becoming governor of the state in 1933.

Today, the 1800 Jewish families of the Greater Daytona area have another reason to celebrate. On Sunday, May 18, community members inaugurated the 25,000 square foot Esformes Jewish Community Center and Day School. The $5.5 million dollar complex includes a Mediterranean-style synagogue, 10 high-tech classrooms, a ballroom and adjoining kitchens, as well as separate mikvahs for women and men. On its completion, Chabad representative Rabbi Pinchas Ezagui, anticipates that the “Volusia County Jewish community will take on a new face completely.”

The new face is thanks in large part, to a generous donor who happened upon the growing community five years ago. Rabbi Moses Esformes had business dealings nearby and was pleasantly surprised to find an active Jewish population in his midst. A Chicagoan, Rabbi Esformes has devoted himself to raising Jewish consciousness in his hometown as well as across America and Israel.

With the belief that “every child should have the opportunity to receive some form of Jewish education,” Esformes dedicated $4 million dollars to the Center’s construction. He anticipates the enthusiasm of the 120 students, from kindergarten through middle school, expected by school directors.

When commended at the event Sunday, Rabbi Esformes instead turned the tables of praise towards Rabbi Ezagui and his wife Chani for their dedication to the community.  

The couple arrived in Daytona 15 years ago. Like most Chabad representatives, they started small. Services and Hebrew school classes were held in their living room. With their doors open to Jews “from all walks of life,” their fledgling congregation quickly outgrew the space. The Ezaguis soon purchased a plot of land and constructed a modest synagogue. That too grew tight, but it was not until the arrival of Rabbi Esformes that plans for a larger building became viable. The new complex, built on the original plot of land, is impressive for its size as well as its splendor.

Rabbi Esformes does not intend to stop here. He is already funding a new school building for Chabad of Alaska. Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, development director for Chabad’s international shluchim network, gently nudged the generous philanthropist to do more. “You [Morris Esformes] chose to support Chabad Centers at the hottest spot in the country and the coldest spot [Daytona and Alaska], I'd like to ask that you now do the rest in the middle.”

And from the sparkling new Community Center in the “City of Speed,” Rabbi Esformes smiled and acknowledged the commission.

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