Chabad at Mizzou raises funds, buys house

Avraham and Channy Lapine (left), co-directors of the Chabad Jewish Center of MU and Mid-Missouri, finalized the purchase of the house that they had been renting in West Campus.

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

The Chabad Jewish Center at University of Missouri-Columbia recently purchased the house that the organization had been renting. The move adds a permanency to the Orthodox campus groups’ presence at the school, said Rabbi Avraham Lapine, who directs the center with his wife, Channy Lapine.

“It shows that we are not just going to be here for a couple years and then leave,” said Lapine, who is part of a network of students centers affiliated with the haredi Orthodox movement. “Chabad is here to stay permanently.”

The purchase of the house in West Campus comes after a challenging few years at the school, during which racist and anti-Semitic incidents sparked protests and at least contributed to the significant drop in student enrollment.

Still, since the Lapines moved to Columbia in 2011, Jewish student life has grown considerably, the rabbi said. At first, about five students would show up to the house for its free Shabbat dinners. The center at Mizzou will now sometimes get more than 40 students. 

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Mizzou Hillel, another Jewish campus group, has also experienced an increase in the number of students participating in its activities, according to its director, Jeanne Snodgrass. And Zeta Beta Tau, a Jewish fraternity, returned to the school in 2015, joining Alpha Epsilon Pi and  Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, two other Jewish Greek organizations. 

The purchase of the house demonstrates that despite the anti-Semitic incidents — which included two students who harassed a Jewish student and were then arrested in February — “Jewish life is thriving and people have nothing to fear,” Lapine said.

Students helped lead a 24-hour fundraising drive, during which students, parents and alumni donated. George Rohr, a Jewish businessman and philanthropist who has donated money to Chabad campus centers around the country, also provided a matching donation.The group ended up with more than $100,000.

By purchasing the house, the directors will be able to make renovations such as knocking down walls that they would not have been able to do as renters.

Paul Kodner, an MU senior, started attending dinners at Chabad when he arrived at the school in 2014 and became president his second semester. 

“It sounds cheesy, but it felt like a second home,” said Kodner, who is from Clayton and majoring in history and pre-law. “It’s kind of a dream come true to see that we now have an official Chabad house.”

The organization plans to do an event celebrating the ownership next semester.