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Soul Meetings




The Rebbe:
Seek and Purchase
a building for the
Chabad House
within two months!

Ann Arbor, Michigan - 1975

The University of Michigan campus might be only an hour's drive from the Oak Park Lubavitch Center, but it's really a "far-out" place for Lubavitch. In ten areas of graduate study, University of Michigan was rated among the top five campuses, one of the highest-rated colleges in America. Amongst its many progressive innovations, the university boasts the first communal college in America.

Ann Arbor, in addition to its five thousand students of which twenty percent are Jewish, is a community of one hundred thousand. The acceptance of Lubavitch on campus can be testified to by a midnight Megillah reading on Purim, which attracted two hundred and fifty students, and the Chassidic Concert held there this past January, which drew an overflow crowd of 500 on a two-day notice.

It all points to one conclusion: The University of Michigan is an out-of-sight campus, ripe for full-scale Lubavitch activities. The first stage of building Chabad on campus has already been accomplished with the purchase of a building, a block from the main campus, the new Chabad-Lubavitch House.

The activities of the campus by Lubavitch, has stimulated interest not only in student circles, but also among prominent Detroit personalities. Nathan P. Rossen, the project's "Founding Father," who has spearheaded the campaign to raise the necessary $800,000 budget.

Mrs. Emma Schaver is a generous philanthropist in her Detroit hometown, as well as Israel. She is one of the supporting pillars of the Ann Arbor project. According to Mrs. Schaver the idea to open a Chabad House in Ann Arbor goes back over seven years, when Rabbi Y. M. Kagan started giving a highly successful Chassidic philosophy course on the campus. "It was then that we first realized the tremendous potential at the University of Michigan."

Attorney Irwin I. Cohn, another enthusiastic Chabad supporter, told me how the purchasing of the building was begun. "Our Detroit delegation," he explained from behind a massive desk in his plush executive suite, "had a special conference with the Rebbe in New York, the day after we'd attended a Chassidic gathering this past winter. We told the Rebbe that we were thinking of acquiring a Chabad House somewhere on the U of M campus, which pleased him greatly. The Rebbe encouraged us in our efforts, and requested that we have the site purchased within two months."

Irwin leaned back in his chair and puffed on his cigar. "The Rebbe's reaction compelled me to rush up to the campus straight from Detroit Metro Airport, the minute I stepped off the plane from New York. I was eager to see what buildings were available. The Rebbe, by the way, sent me a letter thanking me for the prompt action." (to see the letter click here)

"For the next two months, no 24-hour period ever went by without a Chassidic scouting the campus for a prospective site. The Rebbe's interest in the project was phenomenal. Rabbi Shemtov would call up New York to tell them that he had a particular type of building and site, and an hour later, the Rebbe's reply would come back that such a building would lack the proper appearance. Many plans were proposed and scuttled; we even considered demolition and construction from scratch, but the Rebbe replied that it would take too long. Throughout those two months though, the Lubavitcher community in Detroit didn't give up hope, not for one minute!"

"Finally, five days before the Rebbe's birthday, we found a beautiful mansion, merely a block off the main campus. You should see it! It's absolutely gorgeous! But don't think that the Rebbe's interest stopped as soon as he gave them the go-ahead to buy the building. I'm sure that when they went into final negotiations for the building on Friday, the day before the Rebbe's birthday, his spirit must have been with him all the way; otherwise I don't know how they could have finished that deal before sundown."

Truly, the Rebbe's spirit is in Ann Arbor. And Ann Arbor has been preparing to receive Lubavitch for many years, even before the first Chassid set foot on campus. Perhaps the campus has been waiting over eight decades; ever since the cornerstone of an edifice, the future Chabad House, was set in place on a hill overlooking the main campus.

To read the Rebbe's letter following the purchase of the building click here


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