Nearly 100 people stood on the front lawn of the brick bungalow on Columbia Avenue on Monday evening as Rabbi Avrohom Litvin and Rabbi Shlomo Litvin cut a ceremonial blue ribbon stretched across the front porch of the Chabad Jewish Student Center.
At the same time, students unveiled its official sign.
“We want to energize you and support you,” said Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, director of Chabad of Kentucky, the parent organization of the new center.
The more than 2,300 square foot home will allow Chabad to expand its programming and services offered to UK students and the community.
The center on Columbia is the second Chabad center on a Kentucky college campus. The University of Louisville was the first. Chabad has 4,000 centers worldwide with 1,000 centers in the United States.
Chabad is an organization dedicated to providing any Jew, regardless of background, philosophy or level of commitment, an open and welcoming place.
Rabbi Shlomo Litvin, co-founder of Chabad of the Bluegrass, said Chabad began offering services to UK’s students and staff more than a year ago. It operated out of a home on Kentucky Court. But that space was too small for the types of services that UK students and faculty wanted. So in March, Rabbi Shlomo Litvin began looking for a larger space closer to campus and found the home on Columbia Avenue., which recently came on the market.
It typically takes about two years to have enough students and interest to start a student center.
“We were able to get enough students in two weeks,” said Rabbi Shlomo Litvin. “The response was absolutely tremendous. We grew much faster than anticipated.”
In addition to providing Friday night Shabbat and other holiday services, Chabad also sponsors educational classes. The home on the Columbia Avenue also has a basement where students can just hang out. Other services offered by the center include finding and ordering Kosher food for students.
The group started with just two students. Some events attract up to 200 or more people, Rabbi Shlomo Litvin said.
The number of Jewish students at UK has fluctuated over the years and so has the number of Jewish-related organizations. But in the past 10 or so years, the number of students and faculty wanting more Jewish-related services and opportunities has continued to climb, said Rabbi Shlomo Litvin.
“We meet people wherever they are in their faith,” he said Monday. “We have people who come because they want to learn more about the Jewish faith.”