When Chabad of North Fulton completed its building two years ago, it knew it would need more space for its Camp Gan Israel.
So when a Chabad neighbor announced his intent to sell 3 acres, the philanthropic Bunzl family came forward. The family previously donated money for the synagogue’s education wing in memory of Frances Bunzl, who died in 2019, several months after the building was finished. They have been longtime donors to the synagogue and other Jewish Atlanta organizations.
The family’s latest $650,000 donation brought the Chabad property to 10 acres, said Rabbi Hirshy Minkowicz.
The synagogue is also seeking another $650,000 to fulfill its plans for full buildout of the property, which would include a camp sports center, athletic fields and playgrounds available for year-round programming. It is expected to be completed next summer.
The new sports fields will be appropriately named the Bunzl Sports Fields.
Another donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, offered to match half of the money raised through a crowdfunding campaign for the latest expansion plans.
“The main purpose of the summer camp is to bring Jewish kids together for a fun-filled summer of sports, swimming and typical camp activities, while flavoring everything with Jewish teachings and culture,” Minkowicz said.
Chabad of North Fulton started in 1998. It has grown incrementally since then. When the building was completed in 2019, the number of parking spaces required by Johns Creek’s building code drastically cut into the amount of land space available for a camp.
The camp was originally a request by the North Fulton neighborhood where Chabad located. The neighbors approached Minkowicz, expressing the need for a Jewish camp experience for their children close to their homes. Camp Gan Israel (part of the Chabad network of camps) opened its doors with six children in Minkowicz’s living room.
In December 2001, Chabad of North Fulton was able to secure a down payment for a property of 4½ acres, which would become the new home for the Chabad and the camp. The latter was able to move onto this additional property before summer camp opened in summer 2002. The camp made use of air-conditioned trailers as programming facilities. But without additional facilities, children were bussed to swimming pools and sports fields.
It took six years before a sports field and swimming pool were developed, expanding summer program possibilities and responding to the demand of a growing number of North Fulton families for a Jewish summer camp in their neighborhoods, Minkowicz said.
In 2012 an adjacent property of 2½ acres became available, and philanthropist and business exec Mike Leven, a close friend of Minkowicz’ and a supporter of Jewish camping, donated the funds to purchase it, bringing Chabad’s property to 7 acres.
“The growth of Chabad at this Jones Bridge location in North Fulton was always camp-related,” Minkowicz said. Around the same time, a modern community mikvah was built on the property too.
The latest construction project, he concluded, allows “many more children to be served through summer camp and year-round programming while at the same time having the space to welcome and serve the growing North Fulton adult and family community.
- Shaindle Schmuckler
- Chabad North Fulton
- Camp Gan Israel North Fulton
- Frances Bunzl
- Bunz Family
- Bunzl Sports Fields
- Rabbi Hirshy Minkowicz
- camp sports center
- athletic fields
- summer camp
- typical camp activities
- Jewish teachings
- Jewish culture
- John's Creek
- North Fulton
- Mike Leven
- family community
- jewish atlanta