With the renovation of Chabad at Yale’s new house, attendees of the organization’s Shabbat dinners now have a space in which to light candles and enjoy challah without crawling under tables and bumping shoulders.
Following a $6 million campaign and two years of construction and renovation, Chabad at Yale’s new home on 36 Lynwood Place stands roughly 10 times the size of the organization’s previous space on Edgewood Avenue. At nearly 11,000 square feet, the Alice Bender Family Chabad House and Berger Family Building will offer students more regular programming, as well as a haven in which to study and relax.
“What was a ‘negative’ about the old house was that due to the physical limitations of the building, there were people that wanted to come to Chabad that couldn’t,” Chabad President Ron Taitz ’15 said. “That’s why the move was so needed and appreciated.”
Students attending Friday night dinners or holiday services at the Edgewood house frequently found themselves without room to walk, standing during meals and crawling under tables just to navigate the tight space. Such limited mobility often caused Chabad Rabbi Shua Rosenstein not to publicize events and programs to avoid turning people away.
Rosenstein said the former Chabad house could accommodate an average of 40 people comfortably, while the new location is an easy fit for 150.
Comprised of three floors, the Lynwood house features a library, conference room, sanctuary, dining room, kitchen, lounge area, and two full guest suites for visitors and guest speakers.
Adam Zucker ’17, who said he is heavily involved in Chabad programming, hopes the increase in square footage will encourage students not only to come to Friday night dinners but also to holiday programs and weekend hangouts as well. Zucker said the Lynwood location can serve the community in multiple ways while still maintaining a homey feel.
Chabad board member Brit Sharon ’16 said she likes being able to come to a physical house instead of a dorm or office to celebrate Shabbat and learn in a Jewish setting.
Taitz and Sharon are thinking of using the new space to found a Jewish athletics club, an endeavor that would be next to impossible at the former Chabad house.
Until the Lynwood house’s first Friday night dinner on Aug. 23, almost all Chabad at Yale programming had been stationed at Edgewood since 2005. Rosenstein began talking with potential donors about an alternative space in the spring of 2010 and bought the Lynwood house in September of that year. The cost of the building and its renovation totaled $4 million, with the remaining $2 million set aside for the operating endowment.
The Lynwood house will be named after the mother of Chabad lead benefactor Norman Bender ’67. Bender chose to dedicate the new house in memory of his mother, Alice Bender, who he says epitomized much of what Chabad stands for.
“The mission of Chabad is to create a home away from home, and that’s what my mother was all about,” Bender said. “For my friends and classmates, my mom’s home and cooking were their homes away from home. I may have given to the building, but it sure has given to me.”
Brad Berger ’77, another major donor, will dedicate the building itself to the memory of his father, Martin Berger, who played a role in the move from Edgewood to Lynwood until his death five days before the building’s groundbreaking ceremony. A real estate developer based in Los Angeles, Berger not only provided financial backing for the renovation but was also involved in projects ranging from the physical layout of the property to the design of the sanctuary’s ark.
Chabad at Yale’s physical location may be changing, but those involved with the organization expect its community feel to transfer into the Lynwood house.
“Despite the massive square footage upgrade, the close-knit and loving vibe of Chabad at Yale will never falter,” board member Peter Ginsberg ’14 said. “But unfortunately, one aspect may be gone from Shabbat dinner forever — the shvitzing.”
An official dedication ceremony is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. Chabad house donors from New Haven and elsewhere are expected to attend, as is a lineup of speakers and college administrators.