Jewish tradition finds permanent home in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Rabbi Avraham Lapine and his wife, Channy, dreamed of dedicating their lives to the Jewish community.

In 2011, that became a reality, when they started a Chabad house at the University of Missouri.

“Chabad houses started after the Holocaust, but Chabad actually goes way back - over 200 years,” Channy said. “Because it’s a philosophy. It’s a way of looking at Judaism, which approaches Judaism with joy, with love.”

Avraham said Chabad mainly serves students, but is open to mid-Missouri community members as well. The Lapines said Chabad offers teachings, a social outlet, emotional support and a home away from home during the holidays.

“Whatever you would get back at home on holiday services, or whatever you do with dinner with your family, you can get that here at Chabad,” Channy said.

However, after six years of renting a house on the corner of Providence and Brandon Road, the Lapines finally bought it. Avraham said they raised $40,000 in order to buy the house.

“It was really, really an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “That Jewish life is really thriving in Columbia and the University of Missouri. We felt it, we see how people really, really appreciate it - what Chabad does for the students and for the community.”

Chabad at MU is the first and only one of its kind in mid-Missouri, and its permanent status comes just in time for Chanukah.

Avraham said buying the house right before the holiday makes it more significant.

“One of the messages of Chanukah is of the freedom of religion,” he said. "Chabad is all about being Jewish, not only being Jewish, but being Jewish openly - being proud of your Judaism. So actually there is a little bit of a connection.”

One of Chabad’s practices includes public menorah lightings, and one will take place at MU’s Student Center on Tuesday during the first night of Chanukah.

“Especially in a world that’s so dark, we need as much light as possible,” Avraham said. "And that's the message of Chanukah - a little bit of light expels lots of darkness.”

While Chabad at MU is one of hundreds of other houses on a college campus, Chabad is an international movement, present in 100 different countries.