The Chabad Jewish Center at Towson and Goucher is expanding and getting a new name. The facility at 14 Aigburth Road will nearly triple its size. Its new name, Chabad of Towson, reflects the goal of the Chabad rabbi, Mendy Rivkin, to serve not only the students in those two universities but the growing Jewish community of Towson as well.
"We want to meet the demand that wants to reach us," said Rivkin, the Towson Chabad rabbi since the facility opened in 2008. Ground was broken for the new center June 1. "Now, our lack of space limits the programs we can offer. There is talk about building apartments in downtown Towson, and we need to grow to meet the needs" of anticipated Jewish residents."
The Chabad facility is part of Chabad-Lubavitch, an international Jewish outreach movement. The Towson facility is situated in a 2,200-square foot, two-story house that is set back on the lot. The addition will be built onto the front of the center, increasing its size from 3,500- to 6,000-square feet and two- to three-stories high, depending on the final architectural design.
Rivkin has talked to Baltimore County officials about the plan but is awaiting the final design before completing the permit process. He is hoping to start construction this summer and finish in one year. The addition is budgeted at $2 million, to be funded by the national Chabad organization and local Jewish donors.
The existing Chabad facility is used for programs and as the Rivkin family's home. "With the addition, we will use it as our residence and do all the programming in the new space," he said.
Chabad offers classes, workshops and Sabbath dinners. About 150 people per week typically attend these events, primarily students from Towson University and Goucher College.
"Our priority is to continue to accommodate students. But we also want to expand to serve the community," said Rivkin, mentioning the possibility of a Hebrew school with b'nai mitzvah (Bar and Bat Mitzvah) opportunities in the new space. "We hope to make that happen," he said.
Currently, Towson Jewish community members who want those services must travel to synagogues and Jewish facilities in the county's Pikesville and the city's Smith-Greenspring areas.
"There are no Jewish outlets" in Towson, said Rivkin. "With the new center, we hope to reach out to the whole community of York Road and provide better for their Jewish needs."
Dr. Gary Rubin, Towson University vice president, said the Chabad facility is an independent entity that works with the university's student affairs department. The campus has a Hillel "house," part of the international Jewish campus organization.
"Chabad didn't need our permission to build," he said. "But we are an international, diverse campus and [the expansion] falls into place with our desire to be diversified."
Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, whose Fifth District includes Towson, said the only request he got from neighbors of the Chabad facility is that the addition look as residential as possible.
"There weren't any objections," Marks said of the expansion. "Towson is growing and they serve an increasingly diverse population."
Rivkin said he has talked to neighbors of the Chabad facility and, like Marks, heard no objections.
"We've been here for six years. It's a nice neighborhood and we have good relations. We're near a church and a couple of assisted living facilities. Towson High School is on the same block," he said. "We plan to blend in with the neighborhood architecture."