Chabad marks halfway in fund drive

BY MIKE SHERWIN, OF THE JEWISH LIGHT STAFF

Chabad on Campus has passed the halfway point in its goal to raise $850,000 to pay for and renovate its new home near Washington University. Now the organization is hoping members of the community will lend their support — and open their wallets — to help Chabad meet its fundraising goals.

In July 2006, Chabad on Campus moved out of its previous location, an apartment on Forsyth Boulevard about two-and-a-half blocks from the Washington University campus, out of which it had operated for almost four years.

Its new building is located at 7018 Forsyth Blvd., just a few doors down from the western edge of the main Washington University campus. Chabad on Campus received funding from the Rohr Foundation to help purchase the property.

Rabbi Hershey Novack, director of Chabad on Campus, said the group’s fundraising campaign aims to raise a total of $850,000, with around $300,000 for renovations, and the rest to pay down the mortgage on the property.

So far, $450,000 has been raised in the campaign’s private phase from “parents, alumni, friends of Chabad and Jewish and secular organizations,” Novack said.

Novack said that even though the renovations have not been completed, the move alone has already brought more students in.

“Since we’ve moved to the new space, turnout has been higher by 30 to 40 percent even without the renovations, really by virtue of proximity,” Novack said.

“Before we were two-and-a-half blocks away, but in terms of students, it might as well have been two-and-a-half miles. Now, we’re really in the footpath of students in a way we weren’t before,” he said.

Now, Novack said, the organization is seeking funding to renovate the former apartment complex in order to accommodate more people at one time. He said that once the renovation is complete, he expects participation will double, based on similar results at other campuses.

The plans include tearing down internal walls that are not load-bearing as well as a portion of the central load-bearing wall in order to combine separate living areas into one larger, combined space.

“The concept is to create a much more open, flexible space,” Novack said.

The result will be a large common area and library, along with a large dining space, which will come in handy for Chabad on Campus’s free, weekly Shabbat dinners.

In addition, there will be exterior renovations to provide better outdoor lighting and to add a wheelchair ramp in front of the building for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Greenbaum said Chabad on Campus serves an important purpose on campus.

Rabbi Yosef Landa, regional director of Chabad of Greater St. Louis, said the renovations will help Chabad on Campus fulfill its mission.

“Campus life can often represent a serious challenge to a student’s Jewish identity,” he said. “Chabad on Campus helps students to successfully navigate this critical period in their lives as independant Jewish adults and to emerge as committed, active and dedicated Jews. When fully renovated, the new facility will help make Chabad on Campus even more accessible to the students at Washington University and will result in a more engaged and involved Jewish student population.”

Risa Zwerling Wrighton, wife of Washington University’s Chancellor Mark Wrighton, and former dean of Wash. U’s business school Stuart Greenbaum are the honorary co-chairs of the campaign. She said she is excited to see Chabad on Campus grow with the new and larger space.

“You don’t have to be Orthodox to love Chabad,” she said. “Rabbi Novack and his wife Chana have truly enriched the campus experience for all of our Jewish students.

“A very substantial part of the student body at Washington University is Jewish, and many are at a stage where they are searching for meaning in their lives, and Chabad offers these students an opportunity to experience Jewish life and explore their Jewish roots,” Greenbaum said.

Chabad on Campus has centers on more than 100 campuses worldwide. Novack said the organization seeks “to help build the American Jewish future by providing substantive Jewish experiences that are broadly accessible.”

He notes that all members of the campus community and Jews from any background are welcome to participate in Chabad activities.

To contribute to the Chabad on Campus fundraising campaign, contact Rabbi Hershey Novack at 314-721-2884, or [email protected]

Sign up for Your Morning Light