More than 200 people gathered to witness the ribbon-cutting for Chabad at Yale’s new building, including University President Peter Salovey and Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.
The new $4 million building, which is more than nine times the size of Chabad’s former venue on Edgewood Avenue, officially opened for Friday Shabbat dinners and holiday services in September, though construction workers were still putting the finishing touches on the center until last Friday. Students interviewed said the expanded building will help Chabad at Yale become a larger presence in the Yale community.
“The job of growth [for Chabad at Yale] starts now,” Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, co-director of Chabad at Yale, said at the ceremony. “[We want to] reach out to every single person, to invite them in, to give them a hug and to invite them home.”
Before the ribbon-cutting, Salovey and Malloy addressed the crowd, which filled almost half of a city block despite the impending rain.
Beginning with a warm greeting in Hebrew, Salovey commended Chabad for having built a strong presence at Yale and for reaching out to students “with an incredible tone of acceptance and warmth.” The new building will give Chabad enough space to become a center of Jewish study on campus, he said.
Sara Rosenstein, Shua’s wife and the other director of the organization, thanked all donors who contributed to the organization’s $6 million fundraising campaign, which enabled Chabad to build the new complex and establish a $2 million endowment to support the organization’s operating costs.
“When [Rabbi Shua Rosenstein] and I moved here, picturing this building would have been a mirage,” she said. “Thank you for being part of our family and for giving us our home.”
Jillian Merns ’05, one of the original members of Chabad at Yale, told the News that the new building and endowment will enable Chabad at Yale to offer many more programs in addition to dinners and classes. Merns said she joined Chabad at Yale back when the organization met weekly in a rented room in the Taft Apartments.
The organization is newly dedicated in memory of Alice Lewin Bender MUS ’34, with a new name, the Alice Bender Chabad House. The new building, called the Berger Family Building, is dedicated to Martin Berger.
Norman Bender ’68, Alice Bender’s son, and Brad Berger ’77, Martin Berger’s son, were both major donors to the fundraising campaign.
In his speech, Norman Bender said his mother had insisted no one would remember her after her passing. Referencing the organization’s new name, the Alice Bender Chabad House, Bender told the crowd that no one would forget his mother’s name now.
Brad Berger, Martin’s son, told the News he was initially skeptical when he heard about Shua Rosenstein’s plan to build a multimillion dollar new center.
“I thought he was crazy that he wanted to raise all this money,” he said. “[But] Chabad taught him that nothing is impossible.”
Members of the organization interviewed said they hope Chabad can retain its signature “homey” feel despite the larger size of the new center.
Anna Baron ’16, who regularly attends Shabbat dinners on Friday at the center, said the organization has been experimenting with different table configurations to try to create the most welcoming atmosphere in the new building.
Berger told the News that he predicts Chabad will continue to encounter “growing pains” as the organization adjusts to its new venue.
Chabad houses such as Chabad at Yale are part of an international movement to make traditional Jewish study and practice accessible to Jews of all backgrounds.