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Students active with the U of C branch of the Chabad Jewish Center came back this quarter to both a new year and a new building.
The Center, which has been led by Rabbi Yossi Brackman and his wife Balia Brackman out of their house at the corner of East 57th Street and South Kimbark Avenue for the past eight years, is moving one block west to a $1,030,000 house on South Woodlawn Avenue.
The Brackmans hope the 4,500 square foot center, more than twice the size of their home, will open more opportunities for students and community programs and will give Chabad a devoted home base.
“Until now we’ve been juggling programs and our family life, and now we’ll be able to do programming without any issue,” said Rabbi Brackman. Chabad will now be able to host larger events without renting University classrooms.
Among the programs that will have growing room in the new Center is “Linking Hearts,” which engages students with home-bound seniors in Hyde Park, he said. He also plans to run Friday night Shabbat dinners, a Jewish education seminar called Sinai Scholars, and a number of Jewish classes offered to students inside the new building.
“Before they were doing a lot of the programming in a one living room space where their kids might be doing after-school homework, and at the same time Rabbi Yossi might be managing some more administrative things,” said third-year David Akinin, president of Chabad Student board. “Now they have ample space to expand all their programming and the diversity of students with different interests.”
But Brackman said the welcoming atmosphere of the Center won’t change. “We’re still going to try and maintain the cozy family feel that is typical of Chabad,” he said. “Our mission is to give any student an opportunity to explore Judaism.”
Chabad purchased the building from the Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary on December 22 after a two-year capital campaign that raised over $800,000.
The bulk of the money came from a $500,000 grant through the Rohr Family Foundation, with alumni and parents of current students making up most of the rest, Rabbi Brackman said.
With a $350,000 mortgage that will help renovate the building, Chabad still needs $480,000 to cover the move. Tenants living upstairs in the new Center will help pay for the mortgage, Rabbi Brackman said.
Students fund-raised for the new building with donations from friends and family.
“What’s so exciting about the new home is that they’re now going to be able to serve more students with more ample programming, and open their doors to a greater community more comfortably,” Akinin said.