For years, Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm, wife Leah and their five young children were accustomed to having house guests — a lot of house guests.

The couple's home on 17th Street in Boulder was the home base for Chabad at the University of Colorado, where CU students engaged in Shabbat dinners, social gatherings and study sessions each week. The house was cozy and personal but didn't offer a lot of room for growth.

After years of planning and searching, the organization is moving the Chabad to a much bigger space on the Hill: the new Shaeffer Chabad House at CU.

Now that students are done with the semester, construction on the four-story student center, 909 14th St., will begin in the next few weeks and continue through the summer. The plan is to open the new center before the High Holidays in September.

When completed, the building will include a student lounge, a kosher kitchen, a synagogue, a library and student housing for about 29 Jewish students.

The Shaeffer building is meant to "really make students feel like they're loved and can be themselves," Wilhelm said. "That's the greatest l'chaim," or celebration of life.

The CU Chabad's move comes after three years of planning. The organization bought the building in 2011, but it took several years of logistics to make the best use of the space.

The building itself has an interesting past life. The back half of the structure was built in the 1930s, and the front half was added in the 1960s. During its lifetime, the building has been the home of a sorority, several fraternities, a boarding house and a building that included classrooms for the Buddhist and contemplative-focused Naropa University, said Amy Fisk, a spokeswoman for Chabad CU.


At a groundbreaking ceremony last week, Chabad students and organizers gathered in the lobby of the new building to celebrate the organization's transition into a brand-new student center.

Some students who attended the celebration wore their caps and gowns, while others wore yarmulkes decorated with small CU-Boulder logos.

Ben Sanders, president of the Chabad CU student board, said the new building will affect future CU students looking for a community to call their own.

"Their college experience will center around a new Jewish experience on the Hill," he said.

Wilhelm said the Shaeffer House will offer more flexibility and options for students seeking a Jewish community.

It will be a different experience from Chabad at CU's former home on 17th Street, he said.

"It's nice going to the rabbi's house because it's warm, it's friendly, but it's not professional," he said. "Students don't walk into someone's house at 11 p.m. This (student center) will be a place to hang out, do homework, eat, play."

Chabad CU is doing fundraising to keep the project moving forward.

Chabad CU needs to raise about $3.9 million to remodel the building and pay mortgage-related costs. The first phase, which will remodel the building to have student housing, kosher kitchen, social hall, library and synagogue, will cost about $2.75 million.

A second phase, which will cost about $1.15 million, will go toward paying mortgage costs and create an endowment fund to keep the student center running in future years.

Wilhelm said Chabad CU wanted to keep the community focused on college culture, and the Hill will be a great place to continue that goal.

Chabad CU's new neighbors are St. Thomas Aquinas Church, a Catholic CU student organization.

Chabad CU and St. Thomas students recently organized a basketball game together, Wilhelm said.

Chabad "is a very good answer to this building. The neighborhood doesn't want another frat house, and we will be a good Jewish space."

For more information, or to follow the progress of Chabad CU's construction, visit

Contact Camera Staff Writer Megan Quinn at 303-410-2649 or