Chabad House at U.Va. — a space for Jewish students offering Shabbat dinners, challah baking workshops and weekly Cafe Chabad’s — has found a second home at 17 Elliewood Ave. Married couple and co-directors Rabbi Shlomo Mayer and Channa Mayer hope that the new location on the Corner will make it more convenient for students to participate in its activities and programs.
Rohr Chabad House at U.Va. is a Jewish organization on Grounds that provides community for University students and the greater Charlottesville area. The center provides various free programs for Jewish students, including Shabbat dinners and group and individual study on topics of Judaism.
“Our main objective in the last 22 years is to provide a home for U.Va. college students — especially for undergrad [students], when they go far from home and they are lonely, to have a place where they could make friends and they could have a meal,” Mayer said.
The Chabad House takes over the space from Skooma — a Charlottesville CBD dispensary — which had occupied the location since April 2022. Mayer said that he discovered the availability of the Elliewood Avenue location while taking a walk with his wife Channa during Passover, when they saw a sign on the door advertising the building.
The pre-existing location for the Chabad House sits on Lewis Mountain Road and is the Mayers’ personal home as well. Mayer said this location will not stop its programming, as it is easier for first-years to access because it is closer to first-year dorms. However, he hopes that the Elliewood Avenue location will allow even more students to get involved.
“The benefit would be that we are very close to the Corner where … hundreds of students pass by every day, and we wanted to provide a Jewish center that would allow them if they want to have a coffee, or meet with a friend, or come for a class or have dinner,” Mayer said.
The new center has already hosted a celebratory end-of-year barbeque May 2, with plans to further expand programming at the Elliewood location.
Mayer highlighted the Sinai Scholars program — an extracurricular Bible study course for Jewish students — which has held Bible classes every Sunday for the past 15 years. He said he hopes the Chabad House’s Corner location will make it more convenient for students to take these classes on Sundays.
Noa Yager, student president of Chabad House at U.Va. and second-year College student, said she was pleasantly surprised to hear about the new Elliewood location and anticipates an increase in student involvement.
“It's nice to have something in such a central and important location,” Yager said. “We're all very excited to have a Chabad center closer to where a lot of us will be living next year.”
While programming planning for the fall semester has not happened yet, Yager said she looks forward to having the new location as a study space for Jewish students who are close to the Corner.
Leaders of Chabad also hope to host Friday Shabbat meals at the Elliewood location. Shabbat recognizes Friday from sundown to Saturday evening at as a holy day, traditionally a rest from work.
To begin offering Shabbat meals at the Elliewood location, the new center must have its kitchen renovated to ensure meals abide by Jewish kosher dietary laws — rules specifying that meat and dairy cannot be mixed, along with other food preparation and sourcing guidelines.
“They have to make everything in the kitchen kosher first of all, which is like the appliances and the stove and the dishwasher and everything, which they can definitely do over the summer,” Yager said.
Third-year College student Hannah Mikowski said these weekly dinners are one of her favorite memories with Chabad and represent the center’s welcoming approach.
“One time I brought my roommates who aren't Jewish, and they said that they felt that it was a very warm atmosphere, and that they didn't feel awkward at all, and they're just very inviting people,” Mikowksi said.
Mayer specifically emphasized that he wants the Chabad House of U.Va. to be a welcoming place for all students.
“No matter whether you are affiliated or not affiliated, whether you know Hebrew, you don’t know Hebrew, it’s irrelevant,” Mayer said. “Everybody could have a hamburger, independently of your knowledge of Hebrew.”