Welcome to the New Home for Chabad at Oberlin

September 21, 2020
Yvonne Gay
A man asks up a path to a large home.
Rabbi Shlomo Elkan walks up the path to the new Chabad house on West College Street. Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Members of the Oberlin community gathered in early September for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new home for Chabad at Oberlin.

Chabad provides opportunities to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Jewish heritage. Rabbi Shlomo and Devorah Elkan opened the doors of Chabad at Oberlin—a division of Lubavitch of Greater Cleveland—in fall 2010. Complementing the diversity at Oberlin College, the branch is a home where all Jews are welcome regardless of affiliation, denomination, or sexual orientation.

Two men use two sets of large scissors to cut a ribbon.
Photo credit: Jack Lichtenstein ’23

At only 1,400 square feet, the former North Pleasant Street location for Chabad often resulted in events spilling over onto the front porch, says Rabbi Shlomo Elkan. The West College Street location not only has a wrap-around porch, but downstairs space for about 100 people, with ample sitting, dining, and kitchen areas. A library off the foyer is filled with books on all areas of Jewish law, the Talmud, the Bible, and Jewish philosophy.

The home was built in the 1840s and was used as a residence hall for the local YMCA in the 1900s. Most recently it served as off-campus student housing. Reconstruction on the house began in 2015. After a three-year pause, work resumed in 2019 and concluded early this month. ‘‘We retained the footprint of the house and recreated the entire exterior look. We kept the outside trim [to serve as a mold] and recreated that as well,’’ says Rabbi Shlomo Elkan.

A room with a couch, two chairs, and side table.
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

The home is referred to as a community house because it was constructed with the help of donations. Rabbi Shlomo and Devorah Elkan have accomplished much of the fundraising goals, but say there are still sponsorship opportunities available.

Prior to COVID-19, Chabad at Oberlin held social, educational, recreational, and religious programming for students and faculty. Currently, daily classes on Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah), a course called Sinai Scholars taught by Devorah Elkan, Jewish philosophy, and Halacha (Jewish law), among others take place in a large tent next to the home. Services and meetings also take place there.  

Tour Chabad at Oberlin and see the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oberlin’s Flickr page .

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