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Construction of 1st Orthodox synagogue begins in Puerto Rico


San Juan, Dec 10 (EFE).- The construction of what is expected to be the first Orthodox synagogue in Puerto Rico kicked off today in a tourist area on the outskirts of San Juan with a ceremony to lay the first stone attended by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

The project is being pushed by the Puerto Rico Chabad congregation, one of the fastest-growing Hasidic movements in the world, and it will require an investment of $5.5 million.

"It will be the first (Orthodox) synagogue to be built from the ground up in Puerto Rico, as well as the island's first mikvah (where the Jewish purification rites are held)," Rabbi Levi Stein, director of the Chabad Welcome Center, said.

A Jewish Conservative synagogue has existed in Puerto Rico since the 1940s and a Reform one since the '60s, but never before has one been constructed expressly for Orthodox Jews, a Chabad spokesman told Efe.

Garcia Padilla participated in the ceremony to lay the first stone for the project, which is important for Puerto Rico - he said - because of the investment it brings during this period of "economic recovery."

Also attending the ceremony were the executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Ingrid Rivera Rocafort, and key figures within the island's Jewish community.

The idea is for this new house of worship to serve the more than 2,000 Jews who live in the vicinity, as well as the thousands of other Jews who visit the island each year.