Chabad House at FSU
A Home Away From Home
Sari Kreutzer, Fall 2015
The Chabad House at Florida State is an extremely important place for the Jewish population in Tallahassee, Florida. Rabbi Oirechman and his wife Chanie are the heart and soul of The Chabad House at Florida State University. Without them and their growing family (now a family of eight with one on the way), there would not be a Chabad House. The Chabad house has come a long way to get where it is now in 2015.
About 15 years ago, in February 2009, Chanie and Rabbi decided to move from their home in South Florida to the state capital, Tallahassee. At the time, they had a family of three, Chanie, the Rabbi, and their 8-month-old son. The three of them packed their bags and headed for the state capital. They were doing this all by themselves and rented a moving truck. One of the items in this moving truck was their Torah that they were bringing up to Tallahassee from Miami. This specific Torah traveled with the Oirechman’s in every change of events and is still used by Rabbi today.
The Oirechman’s knew of no one up in Tallahassee. They were taking it upon themselves to help spread Judaism up in the panhandle. Once they arrived in Tallahassee, they got help from strangers. Neighbors, new friends, and other Jews in the area helped jumpstart the becoming and beginning of the Chabad House. These strangers helped move the Oirechman’s into their new home. “I had to grab my new neighbors to help me get the furniture out of the moving truck,” stated Rabbi. The Oirechman’s bought a five-bedroom home. This is the home where the Chabad House started. They were using three out of the five bedrooms along with the main living room as a place for people to take classes and attend programs and services.
Since Chanie and the Rabbi did not know any Jews in Tallahassee, the two of them used to look in the phone book and call people with Jewish sounding names. They would invite them over to the Chabad House and tell them to come introduce themselves. This was their best option to help spread the word that there was a Chabad House in the area. With this method thirty people came for the first event. From there on out, the Chabad Houses’ turnout kept growing. Then Passover came along and fifty Jews came. As the Jewish people in Tallahassee were getting familiar with Chabad, the congregant population increased. It was time to move and expand into a bigger house. There was one problem, they did not have the funds to expand and move. “As our family grew and Chabad grew, we needed a new facility,” said Chanie.
Later that same year, Rabbi Oirechman went to a graveyard to pay a visit to one of the Rabbi’s who founded the idea of “Chabad Lubavitch.” While he was there he met a man. This man wanted to help out Rabbi Oirechman in expanding the Chabad House. Rabbi Oirechman took this as a sign from the Rabbi who had passed saying that he was looking out for him. This man that he met had offered to pay his rent for a year in a new house. Rabbi Oirechman took him up on this offer.
The Oirechman’s were in that new house for about three years, but this house was not necessarily near campus. Rabbi Oirechman then got an offer to focus on the Jewish student population at Florida State University. The Oirechman’s were funded by a three year grant to work directly with these students. The Jewish population kept growing in Tallahassee. At this point in time, the Oirechman’s were having anywhere from seventy to eighty people come out to events and the High Holidays.
Since Rabbi and Chanie were working directly with Florida State, they needed to move closer for the students. The year 2014 was the year for renovations to happen. This new location had to be close to campus so students would be able to have an easy time commuting. This new three-acre location on Chapel Drive, about a five-minute car ride from campus, turned out to be a perfect location for students.
Originally, a church occupied this three-acre piece of land. Rabbi and Chanie’s plan was to knock down the church and build a new house. Rabbi Oirechman wants the Chabad house to be a “safe house” for Jewish students. He wants anyone to be able to walk in at any time whether it’s to socialize, pray, or to learn. Rabbi loves when students just stop in at any time of the day to say hello.
The cost of the new and improved Chabad House was about a million dollars. Rabbi and Chanie give thanks to Moris and Lilian Tabacinik, philanthropists, who helped out with this purchase. If the Oirechman’s want to follow through with all of their big plans, Rabbi, Chanie, and the students are going to have to keep fundraising. Rabbi has plans to renovate the entire house. He wants to add a library, dining room, laundry room, as well as a fitness center for students. So far, he has not gotten there yet, but I’m sure he will in the future.
The Chabad House has gone through a lot. From being a small startup program in a minute house, to now being at a huge beautiful house with prospering programs, Chabad House as been through it all. “We do see a lot of growth,” Chanie stated and “there’s a great need” for the services Chabad provides.
Today, The Chabad House provides Shabbat dinners, a place to go and worship on Jewish Holidays, classes taught by the Rabbi as well as female classes taught by Chanie, and many different social events. These social events are not your typical bonding events with peers. There’s donut making, challah making, Chinese themed dinners, and we cannot forget about Chanie’s special “GNO Wine and Cheese night.” Rabbi Oirechman also prides himself that at least fifteen couples have met here at Chabad and are now married. Not to mention, all of these events are free of charge. This place survives and thrives off of donations and fundraisers. The support that the Chabad house receives is incredible.