Alum donates $1 million to Chabad

When the Chabad House reopens in 2012, it will be named the Berger Family Building following a $1 million donation by Brad Berger ’77.

Berger, a former commercial real estate developer who now works as a private investor in Los Angeles, pledged his donation Sunday to Chabad’s $6 million capital campaign. The drive was launched last month to raise money for renovations and furnishings for its new house at 36 Lynwood Pl., the site of the swim team’s Palmer House.

“I’m making the gift in honor of my great-grandparents from Czechoslovakia, Herman and Faye Berger, and four of their sons who were all killed in the Holocaust,” Berger said.

At Yale, Berger studied economics and played varsity basketball. He said he wanted to honor his educational and family roots, and chose to dedicate the new Chabad building for this purpose.

Berger’s contributions to the renovations are not just financial. He said he has advised Chabad on design, planning and construction, and even designed the brochure advertising the organization’s capital campaign.

Chabad is raising funds to pay $3.2 million in building expenses, which includes the purchase of the building, renovations and furnishings, according to the group’s capital campaign brochure. The group is also seeking $1 million for the first two years’ operating expenses, and $1.8 million for its endowment.

Chabad at Yale Rabbi Shua Rosenstein said Berger is a good partner in the renovations, adding that he appreciates his gift and continued support of Chabad.

“Brad is not just a donor who writes a check,” Rosenstein said. “He is a donor who genuinely cares about the state of Jewish life at Yale and all the students here.”

The capital campaign is on track so far, Rosenstein said. Aside from Berger’s gift, Chabad has collected more than $250,000 in restricted dedications for the purchase of two torahs, one Ner Tamid or sanctuary flame, mezzuzahs and other items.

Berger’s donation and the other gifts Chabad has received since December are encouraging, Chabad President Zachary Fuhrer ’11 said.

“It seems all the more real that this great renovation is going to become a reality,” he said.

(Fuhrer is a former Arts & Living editor for the News.)

The new building, Berger said, will be eight times as large as Chabad’s current 1,100-square-foot property at 37 Edgewood Ave. and will “safely and comfortably” accommodate all student visitors. Berger said the building’s dining hall, which will be able to hold over 120 students, is a significant improvement over Chabad’s current facilities. Friday night Shabbat dinners are regularly packed, Rosenstein said, with students standing as they eat their meal due to a lack of space.

Fuhrer said the new property will be even more of a “home away from home, for myself and all students that go to Chabad every week.” Other students expressed excitement over the renovated building.

“Although I’m not particularly religious, I’m happy there will be a larger space for times when I feel like reconnecting with my community,” said Alan Sage ’14, adding that he intends to visit the new building when it opens.

Daniel Tay ’14 said he supports the expansion of any organization that promotes greater cultural awareness, and that Chabad is certainly one.

Steven Sitrin, the executive director of the Slifka Center, said the new Chabad facilities will complement Slifka’s offerings.

“We are pleased that Jewish students at Yale have an increasingly rich range of opportunity to express and explore their Jewishness,” he said.

36 Lynwood Pl. is currently occupied by members of the men’s varsity swim team, which has rented the property for the past three years. They will vacate by June when their lease expires.

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