Chabad Opens New Student Lounge


Abe Frato

A new student lounge was recently opened on the second floor of Chabad at Oberlin’s guest house.

Recently, Chabad at Oberlin opened a new student lounge on the second floor of the guest house in the backyard of Chabad house. Equipped with Wi-Fi and stocked with coffee, a kosher nosh station, books, and even a foosball table, the lounge serves as an off-campus location for students to study, spend time with friends, and hang out in a comfortable space. Jewish students struggling with mental health have expressed interest in a quiet area to unwind at Chabad, and have appreciated the opportunity to watch Netflix or take a nap on the lounge’s couch. Rabbi Shlomo Elkan also plans to use the space for Chabad’s leadership board meetings and other informal programming to further acquaint people with the new area.

During the creation of the lounge, Elkan took student comfort into account. He noted that some students feel they may be imposing on him and his family by spending extended time at Chabad, and decided a space outside of the main house would be beneficial. The Chabad house has always strived to create a comfortable and open space for all Jewish students regardless of their background, and Elkan hopes this new study spot will further that mission.

He also emphasizes the importance of identity spaces on campus, noting that the Chabad house is one of the only uniquely Jewish spaces at Oberlin.  According to the Anti-Defamation League, Jewish students across college campuses have reported feeling increasingly unsafe expressing their identity, “with one in three students personally experiencing antisemitic hate directed at them in the last academic year,” common incidents consisting of “offensive comments online or in person, and damage or defacement of property.”

Similarly to other identity-based spaces, Jewish spaces provide comfort, community, and culture for those looking to connect more deeply with others who share their heritage or religion. Chabad hopes that Jewish spaces will become a normal part of campus life.

According to Elkan, Jewish spaces like the lounge “bind students together and allow them to connect over the simple fact that they are Jewish.”

It is important to note that while the lounge serves as a Jewish space, there is no definition of Judaism that a student must abide by in order to be welcomed. Chabad is not just a venue for religious programming, but a place of joy and refuge for Jewish students. The lounge is there for any Jewish student on campus, regardless of what the label “Jewish” means to them. Elkan wants people to know that there are no defined parameters or expectations for students engaging with Chabad. Within the lounge, people have the freedom to pick up a book and read, meet friends, or just swing by to grab coffee.

Although the lounge is brand new, Elkan says creating this area for students has been on his mind since he and his family moved into what has been the Chabad house of Oberlin for the past thirteen years, but COVID-19 and other factors slowed the process.

“When we first looked at the property, the character and uniqueness of the space prompted us to buy it,” Elkan said. “That space felt like a good hangout space to us.”

Now, the student lounge is fully open and welcomes visitors during all hours of the day, and Elkan hopes everyone will take advantage of this new space.

In Elkan’s words, “it is just a place to be.”