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Chabad to unveil ‘a home away from home’ on Sept. 14

By : Eric Coker

Rabbi Aaron Slonim said students’ reaction to seeing the new Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life can be summed up in one word. “Wow.”

Others will get the chance to share that sentiment when Chabad formally unveils the facility at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14, at the 420 Murray Hill Road site. Chabad is expecting 400-500 guests, including students, faculty, administrators, community members and alumni. The program begins with a luncheon, followed by a ribbon cutting, speakers, music and dessert.

Slonim emphasized that the entire campus community is invited: Reservations can be made to Chabad at or by calling 797-0015.

Chabad has been providing support and programming to the University’s community of Jewish students since 1985 and has been at the Murray Hill Road property since 1988.

“The most important thing is that students feel like they’re coming home when they come through our doors,” said Slonim’s wife, Rivkah, the education director for Chabad.

“A home away from home: that’s our slogan,” said Rabbi Slonim, Chabad’s executive director.

Drawing up to 1,500 students a semester for events and hundreds for Friday night dinners made the Slonims realize an expansion was necessary, or they would risk turning students away.

“We had more students coming to our events than we could accommodate,” Rivkah Slonim said. “It was a wonderful crisis, but nevertheless it was a crisis.”

Land adjacent to Chabad House was purchased in 2006 and ground was broken in May 2007. The new center is attached to the previous Chabad House, creating a 22,000-square-foot facility. The funds for the $3.5 million center have been gained solely from fundraising, Rabbi Slonim said.

The center features a large lobby that leads to a dining/social hall and kitchen. The main level also has a sanctuary and conference rooms. The lower level offers amenities such as bedroom suites, a game room, an entertainment center with Wii and Xbox systems, a café and a fitness room. An upstairs level has meeting rooms, offices and an atrium that looks out onto Murray Hill Road. The facility also includes a library with stations for laptop computers.

Almost 25 years of talking with students and seeing their needs helped determine what the center would offer, Rabbi Slonim said.

“We want to offer an organic experience,” Rivkah Slonim said. “You can pray here or work out, study here or hang out.”

Chahad is talking with the Student Association about renting meeting rooms at the center to clubs that may need space during University Union construction, Rabbi Slonim said.

Also to be unveiled Sunday is a Holocaust memorial that developer and Chabad House Vice President Barry Newman erected in honor of his late wife, Ceil, a Holocaust survivor.

The Slonims are particularly excited about the alumni who will be returning for the dedication and Shabbat with their spouses and children who may now be considering attending Binghamton University.

“A lot of them have seen us begin, sitting around a small table with 10-15 students our first semester here,” Rivkah Slonim said. “So for them to come and see 350-400 kids crowd the room to celebrate Shabbat together is going to be something.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08