Rabbi nurtures southwest Valley’s growing Jewish




Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:00 AM

There is an apartment waiting in Brooklyn, N.Y., for Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky and his family, just in case things don’t work out in Goodyear. While some relatives doubt his and his wife’s dream to build a synagogue for the southwest Valley’s growing Jewish community, Zaklikofsky does not.

“My parents don’t believe that I am still here,” said Zaklikofsky, 30, adding that they are keeping the apartment free in case he moves back.

“Two years later, we’re still here and the vision is still strong and our goals are still in place,” the rabbi said. “We’re going to make it happen.”

Zaklikofsky is a leader in a small but growing Jewish community in the southwest Valley. When he arrived in 2010, 10 families agreed to join his burgeoning Jewish community center. Now, about 200 families worship at the Chabad Jewish Center of Goodyear. The center is for all Jews, regardless of affiliation. It draws its members from Goodyear, Buckeye, Avondale, Litchfield Park and Tolleson.

He said he was inspired to build a religious community in the southwest Valley after a cross-country trip.“I met someone in Anthem that knows a family in Goodyear,” he said. “Every day I meet people. It’s word of mouth.”

The center, based in Zaklikofsky’s home, opened in August 2011. He estimates there are roughly 500 Jewish families living in the southwest Valley.

He liked Goodyear because it was vibrant, new and needed a Jewish center.

Because his relatives had built Chabad synagogues throughout the state, Zaklikofsky felt it was time for one in the southwest Valley.

In 2009, Zaklikofsky began meeting with residents who wanted to build a Jewish center.

Richard Moskowitz and his wife were among the first people he visited. For years, Moskowitz had attended shul, or synagogue, at the Chabad of Scottsdale. It’s roughly 35 miles from his home. There were signs that there was a growing Jewish community, said Moskowitz, an Avondale resident.

Two years ago, more than 200 people attended a Hanukkah menorah lighting at the Southwest Family YMCA in Goodyear. At first, the Zaklikofskys met with local Jews in their homes, at Starbucks and at Westgate City Center. Zaklikofsky now has Sabbath services in his home once a month, attracting about 25 people.

Zaklikofsky has had services at a Comfort Suites for the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Free classes are held on topics ranging from the practices of Judaism to Jewish laws to how to cook kosher.

For more details, write jewishgoodyear@gmail.com or call 623 466-6110.