Breaking ground on the new Jewish Cultural Center in Collier County

Published: November 19, 2021 7:50 PM EST
Updated: November 19, 2021 7:55 PM EST

Swastikas were painted along a road in Lehigh Acres. And, neighbors say things like this have been going on for a while.

Despite threats, the Jewish community in Southwest Florida is creating a new place to connect.

The dirt and equipment on this lot are not only for a building but also for creating a community. Jeffrey Feld is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples. “When I was actually speaking earlier, I had to pause for a minute because I was about to tear, and you can’t do that when you’re speaking,” Feld said.

Seven years ago, Jeffrey Feld had a vision. he wanted to bring people together under one roof. “It doesn’t matter if it’s from the reformed community, Orthodox community, conservative community, not affiliated, even the not Jewish community. We are building a community,” said Feld.

Seven years later, they were able to break ground on what will become the Nina Iser Jewish Cultural Center. Marc Saperstein is the building coordinator for the center. “Our men’s group, our women’s group, the Jewish book festival, and our community youth group BBYO has also grown dramatically. And we just ran out of space in our current location,” said Saperstein.

Credit: WINK News

Unfortunately, antisemitism is growing as the community grows. Saperstein knows this all too well. “I saw it as a child, and we do see rising incidents across the country,” he said.

So, the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples asked the Collier County Sheriff’s Office to look at its proposed security systems for the building. “It’s called a mantrap. And so in our front entrance, there will be two front doors you’ll be able to get into the front door unless you have the proper security to get through the next door; you don’t get in,” said Feld.

They want it to be safe and secure because it’s more than just a new building. It’s a new home. “A building is just a building; it’s what comes with the building. It’s the spirit of the people who are part of the building,” said Saperstein.

The new Jewish Cultural Center should be completed in about one year. It is supposed to be 20,000 square feet, which is enough room for a 400-person audience.