For a decade, Sarah Deitsch has dreamed of expanding the Schottenstein Chabad House at Ohio State University.
“We want the community to grow,” said Deitsch, the program director at the Jewish student organization housed at 207 E. 15th St. in the campus area.
Deitsch believes the expansion will maintain the inviting atmosphere the house offers students now, but with more space for them to gather for dinners, holidays, events, classes and fun.
In order to expand, the group bought the neighboring property at 215 E. 15th St. in August for $900,000
Starting in May, the Chabad House plans to demolish the existing buildings to construct a new center, which at about 20,000 square feet will be nearly double its current size.
Deitsch said she hopes the new building will open in August 2021. In the meantime, students will meet in rented spaces for events, she said.
The Chabad House’s plan to expand is scheduled to be presented at the University Impact District Review Board’s meeting Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Michael B Coleman Government Center, 111 N. Front St., Room 204.
“We are hoping that now that the building is bigger, students will feel excited. … That more students will feel comfortable to be a part of something so excitingly Jewish,” Deitsch said.
The Chabad House at Ohio State was instituted 26 years ago, and donors and others agreed it was time for a renovation, Deitsch said. Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein are helping to fund the expansion, as are alumni, parents and friends of the group, she said.
Inside will be a larger social hall to accommodate the sometimes 200 students who attend events and holiday celebrations, an expanded Jewish library, two kosher kitchens, a larger synagogue, a student lounge, recreation room, offices, classrooms and seven bedrooms for students, parents and guest speakers to stay in temporarily.
The organization is staffed by Deitsch; her husband, Rabbi Zalman Deitsch; Rabbi Levi Andrusier; his wife, Aviva Andrusier; a sous chef; and an administrative assistant.
Approximately 5%, or almost 3,000, of Ohio State students are Jewish, according to Hillel International, another Jewish student organization.
The house welcomes all students to come learn about the Jewish faith, attend weekly Shabbat dinners, gather for Jewish holidays, take classes and learn about volunteer opportunities, Deitsch said.
“It’s a place for students to just hang out and relax,” she said. “We want to make it as inviting and warm and welcoming as we can.”
Sammi Levy, a senior majoring in finance and real estate at Ohio State, has been attending events at the Chabad House since she was a freshman. She describes the facility as warm and welcoming.
“It opened my eyes to the fact that there really is no level of Judaism or observance that’s right or wrong,” said Levy, 21, of the East Side.
She said it helped her find her “own identity with Judaism and see who I am as a Jewish person.”
With students often having priorities other than religion, Deitsch hopes the new center will be a place where students can feel safe, accepted and able to connect with their faith.
“Chabad House wants to offer them an opportunity to do something fun in a religious environment without making them feel pressured or like an outcast,” she said.