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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Chabad granted permit for campus synagogue

University of Wisconsin students and Madison Jewish community members will soon have an on-campus synagogue due to a conditional use permit granted to the Chabad organization.

The property, located at 223 W. Gilman St., is currently owned by Chabad, which provides education and services for the local Jewish community.

The approval of the conditional use permit allows for constructional alterations on the first floor to provide a place of worship for members. The two-unit apartment building will be converted into a first floor synagogue, while the second floor will house the rabbi and his family.

Ald. Mike Verveer, whose District 4 includes the Gilman Street property, said the new location for the synagogue is “obviously very convenient for a lot of students.”

Chabad at UW is home to one of the largest Jewish student populations at the university, and the construction of the new synagogue would be at a convenient location for Jewish students and faculty to attend multiple services.

Rabbi Mendel Matusof, owner and developer of the property, lives on the main level with his family and provides services to Jewish students. The upper level is currently rented out to students.

Matusof said the first floor would be remodeled from an apartment to a large synagogue area. A small kitchen would be added, as would handicap access to bathrooms.

A modest addition to the back of the house, along with an accessible ramp for disabled persons, would help fit about 73 worshippers on the first floor, Verveer said.

He added the synagogue would mostly be geared toward the UW community, and neighborhood residents are happy and supportive of the old but popular house. The house was built in 1921 and survived initial attempts at converting it into a parking ramp.

“I support the conditional use permit,” Verveer said. “I think it’s actually cool that the family will be living there.”

The Hillel foundation on Langdon Street is another Jewish organization that provides programs and activities for students. Matusof said it serves a “different function” than the synagogue on Gilman Street would.

Matusof said Hillel is “a lot more of a Jewish student center, and ours is a much more synagogue-family base.” Overall, he added, it would have the feel of a “smaller family-style service.”

Construction is to begin in late January 2009, with the anticipated date of completion around September of that year.

“It’s nice that students of the Jewish faith will have this option for them to follow their faith, so to speak,” Verveer said.

Verveer mentioned the existence of a couple other synagogues on the west side of campus, on Regent and Monroe streets, which are farther away on campus and less convenient for students to get to.

Matusof said the Hillel foundation is planning a construction project to build a larger student center in 2009.

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