By COLlive reporter
A new 23,000 square foot Jewish Student Center is set to open Sunday, February 9th at the University of Florida in Gainsville. The Lubavitch-Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning’s grand opening will culminate a two-and-a-half year building project.
With a Jewish student body estimated between 6,000-8,000, it is the largest Jewish student population on any campus worldwide outside of Israel. The multifaceted center was built to cater to the widest range of student needs, and includes a kosher dining/caf?, guest lounge, fitness room, synagogue and more.
The $4.8 million center was also designed and built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, embracing a cleaner and greener future.
Since its inception in 2000, Lubavitch-Chabad at the University of Florida has served as a home away from home for the many thousands of Jewish students attending the state university from across the region, including Miami, Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee.
“I love the friendly and welcoming atmosphere that my friends and I come back week after week,” said Michelle Taspakdee, a student from Coral Springs. “At Chabad, I feel like I’m visiting my second family.”
Particularly noteworthy is the diverse support the center has earned from the widest cross-section of the university and local communities, which has helped make this new home a reality. Bringing together Jews from every background and religious affiliation is a testament to Lubavitch-Chabad’s hallmark attitude of acceptance and warmth to one and all.
Frederic G. Levin and family, benefactors of the College of Law at the University of Florida, who will be dedicating the building, local software mogul and spiritual author Michael A. Singer who will be dedicating the Synagogue and banquet hall, and Moshe and Lillian Tabacinic–whose name the new campus will bear–are among the many supporters of the new center.
“Our main purpose here in Gainesville is to provide a safe haven for Jewish life and learning for the students and the Gainesville community,” says Rabbi Berl Goldman, who co-directs the center along with his wife Chanie. “We believe every person, regardless of observance or affiliation, should have a place where they feel comfortable to grow physically and spiritually.”
With a formal ribbon cutting ceremony in the presence of community and university leaders and elected officials, along with greetings from the university president, Dr. J. Bernard Machen, the dedication will celebrate past achievements and the ever expanding activities the new center will help to accommodate.