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Harvard Chabad, an organization coordinating a broad outreach to the University’s Jewish community, celebrated its new $1.5 million Banks Street campus center yesterday, with speeches from students, rabbis and Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz.
Two hundred and fifty supporters gathered at Harvard Business School (HBS) yesterday for the dedication, which marked the organization’s growth from its beginnings in a small Cambridge apartment in 1997.
Founder Rabbi Hirsch Zarchi said yesterday that an expanding membership necessitated the spacious new house, which boasts a dining room with service for more than 100, a large common area suitable for study or prayer, offices for administration and student leadership, a student lounge and a courtyard to accommodate large events.
Though himself an Orthodox rabbi, Zarchi said Chabad tries to provide a low pressure alternative for Jews of all level of observance.
The purchase of the new house was financed by a pair of HBS alums—Jaime Gilinski and George Rohr ’76—and their wives.
Harvard students and alums, as well as members of the Jewish clergy, gathered to thank the donors at HBS before taking a bus to the new building for a tour and ribbon cutting.
Dershowitz, the group’s faculty sponsor, said he hoped the space will help guide the Jewish community at Harvard in an unfriendly time.
“I just want to say that after 300 years at Harvard, we’re finally getting wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, and we’ve never needed it more,” he said.
Citing an ongoing drive for the University to divest from Israel, Dershowitz said the goal of “some of the professors here has been to miseducate.”
Chabad should play a pivotal role in combating anti-semitism at Harvard, he said.
Emily Ludmir ’03, President of the Harvard Friends of Chabad—the group’s affiliated student organization—said its main role is outreach.
“We seek to bring in Jewish students who may not otherwise have the space to have a Jewish identity,” Ludmir said.
The group sponsors prominent campus events several time a year—including a party for the Jewish holiday of Purim, and a menorah lighting on the steps of Widener Library at Hanukkah.
Ludmir said that Friday sabbath dinners are Chabad’s centerpiece event.
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