The Rohr Chabad House at UW-Madison is planning a five-story expansion of their current house on W. Gilman Street to accommodate increased student demand during Jewish holidays.
“We have to limit how many people we can host for Passover,” said Rabbi Mendel Matusof, director of the Rohr Chabad House. “We have to turn away hundreds of people, which is unfortunate because it's sad enough that they have to be away from home for the holiday, but they should at least get the opportunity to celebrate at college, and shouldn't have to get turned away because of a lack of space.”
Currently led by Mendel and Henya Matusof, the Chabad House serves as a vital space for the approximately 4,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate Jewish students at UW-Madison, providing a safe and inclusive environment for them to gather and celebrate Jewish holidays.
“Lots of students are part of the community, and they come and want to participate in celebrations and holidays and community,” Mendel said. “They want to have the space, which is here for them to use.”
The proposed expansion is still in its preliminary planning stages, but Mendel said it could take three to five years before the project officially starts. The plans consist of five stories overlooking Lisa Link Peace Park on Gilman Street and will require the demolition of another house next door, which Chabad leadership said has been poorly maintained.
“We don't have a timeline because we're really at the very, very beginning of the process,” Mendel said.
Apart from addressing immediate space constraints, the proposed expansion could create more affordable student housing, Mendel said. Although specific logistics are yet to be determined, Mendel envisioned incorporating additional housing units into the new structure.
“We're looking at expanding our project,” Mendel said. “And that would probably be limited to six units of three bedrooms each.”
Despite the excitement surrounding the expansion, Chabad leaders acknowledged the need for substantial fundraising efforts. Given their nonprofit status, a considerable campaign is required to accumulate the necessary funds, which could amount to several million dollars, according to Mendel.
“It's gonna cost quite a few million dollars,” Mendel said. “I'm confident that we'll be able to find the support, but it could take a long time.”