The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

JB Pritzker, Chancellor Jones attend Jewish center dedication, 21st anniversary

Sofi Klein
Governor JB Pritzker and Rabbi David Tiechtel share the scissors at the ribbon cutting of the Illini Chabad grand opening on Thursday. The two smile for the photographers as the audience counts down from ten.

Illini Chabad, a living center catered toward Jewish students at the University, celebrated a formal dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the building’s 21st anniversary. Gov. JB Pritzker, Chancellor Robert Jones and the University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen also attended the event on Oct. 19.

During the event, children, fraternity members and elders of the local Jewish community congregated on the south lawn of the building. Speakers from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and local government officials rallied in support of the only Jewish living center in the nation with University-affiliated housing.

“Just a little over 20 years ago there was no Chabad physical presence here on campus … We’ve come a long way in two decades,” Pritzker said. “This center will send the message everywhere that you belong here. Jews of the University of Illinois now have a place to call home.”

Illini Chabad is the largest of its kind in the nation. It contains 32 two-bedroom suites and a kosher kitchen for its students. 

Collectively commended by the community and University leaders alike, the Chabad Jewish Center was co-founded by Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel and his wife Goldie Tiechtel.

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    “When Rabbi Dovid and Goldie came into our lives, they introduced a level of intimacy and religious safety that allowed our family to experience a much deeper cultural inclusivity,” said Lori Gold Patterson, former CEO of tech firm Pixo and Urbana resident. “I am grateful to have Rabbi Dovid as part of our family.”

    Patterson’s own son celebrated a bar mitzvah with the guidance of Dovid Tiechtel in 2008, a ceremony “filled with Jews and Baptists and Catholics and Protestants,” in the early years of the center. 

    “I thought that most of the people here were going to be Jewish … but after three years, that’s certainly not the case,” said Vir Saini, junior in Engineering and non-Jewish resident adviser of Illini Chabad. “(Tiechtel is) very open, very welcoming … living here, your circle expands.”

    Since then, Illini Chabad has fostered a strong student-centered environment. Ellie Scott, student president of Illini Chabad, shared her experience as a student resident of Chabad during the ceremony.

    “Since freshman year, Rabbi Dovid and Goldie’s services, events and conversations have provided me the opportunity to explore a personal connection to Judaism,” Scott said. “The excitement around Chabad is contagious.”

    The Tiechtels, who were invited by Chabad International to develop the Champaign-Urbana branch in August of 2003, did not initially receive a warm welcome from the University with their hopes of a proud public expression of Judaism.

    “There were no signs, there were no people,” Tiechtel said. “It was a dollar and a dream. One of the first people I met told me, ‘Rabbi, this is not New York. Judaism behind closed doors, please.’ … My friends, look around. We did it. Who would have ever imagined 27,000 square feet of Jewish life, a community center?”

    The ceremony also revealed plans to further enhance the center’s many public spaces, such as its library and study rooms, with donations and sponsorships for phase two of Illini Chabad’s lifetime. 

    To Tiechtel, however, Illini Chabad’s central purpose is not just about a building of brick and mortar.

    “A miracle of this magnitude does not happen on its own,” Tiechtel said. “Chabad is not a center of offices. Chabad is a family.”


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