Just in time for the fast-approaching holiday of Chanukah, the network of campus-based Chabad-Lubavitch centers in the United Kingdom is expanding once more with the opening of the first-ever Chabad House dedicated to university students in Manchester, England.
Rabbi Zalman and Mushky Loewenthal moved to the city just a few weeks ago and quickly found a home near the University of Manchester from which they will provide a home away from home for one of the U.K.’s largest Jewish student populations and the largest single site campus for Chabad on Campus U.K.
“Now that we’re living here, we’re meeting new people,” says the rabbi, quipping, “I just got a library card.”
According to Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of the Oxford Chabad Society and chairman of Chabad on Campus U.K., the University of Manchester is one of the largest college campuses in the country. Neighbors of the school include Manchester Metropolitan University and Salford University. Loewenthal estimates that upwards of 1,500 Jewish students attend the three universities.
Brackman is quick to point out that Manchester has a rich Jewish community, but its Chabad Houses have up until now served everyone, from the college set to established families.
“Chabad-Lubavitch of Manchester has been active in various ways on campus over the years,” says Brackman. “But with the Loewenthals’ move, we’re excited to now have a permanent presence on campus which will transform student life with an open door for all Jewish students from all backgrounds, a stimulating program of high profile events and large-scale Shabbat and festival dinners for the hundreds of Jewish students who up until now have not been touched by other organizations.
“The University of Manchester is a campus that has become more challenging for Jewish students,” he adds, noting a changing political climate, “and we look forward to strengthening Jewish life and working closely with the other Jewish organizations on campus.”
Loewenthal, 24, says that he and his wife – the couple, who previously lived in London, also have a baby girl – have gotten early calls of support from Rabbis Y.Y. Rubinstein, associate chaplain of the U.K.’s University Jewish Chaplaincy, and Benji Silverstone, director of Aish HaTorah in Manchester. Since their move, they’ve been hosting students for Friday night meals; they’re looking towards Chanukah – the eight-day Festival of Lights begins the night of Dec. 1 – as an opportunity to introduce themselves to the entire community.
The new Chabad House is being funded in large part by philanthropist David Slager, who became acquainted with Chabad on Campus as a law student at Oxford and in recent years has underwritten the unprecedented growth of the organization. It is also funded by South Manchester-based businessman and philanthropist Zalman Klyne.
“This is something we both wanted,” Loewenthal says of his and his wife’s new life. “It is a very important mission for the furtherance of the Jewish people in the next generation.”