Chicago’s Lubavitch Girls High School has broken ground on a sweeping $14 million building which will also bring major upgrades to the Bnei Ruven building, which has become too small for the growing community’s needs.
“A pleasant home,” say the sages, “is one of three things that broaden a person’s mind.” And what place is more crucial for expanding and opening minds than a Chabad high school, where teens grow into chassidishe, empowered, caring, and strong young women?
With that in mind, Chicago’s Lubavitch Girls High School and Congregation Bnei Ruven have broken ground on phase one of the school’s sweeping $14 million building project that will allow them to upgrade and enhance virtually every area of a student’s academic, social, spiritual, and emotional growth.
“Everything about this building is done with intention,” says dean Rabbi Baruch Hertz. “From the sweeping and light-filled lobby that forms the core of the building to the way that offices are spread through the building so that staff and students interact naturally and easily, we worked very hard to make this an upbeat place where girls will feel comfortable, supported, and stimulated.”
The school was founded by Rabbi Daniel Moscowitz, a”h, and a group of dedicated parents with the Rebbe’s blessing in 1990 with less than 10 students in the classrooms of Cong. Bnei Ruven and has occupied several temporary locations before returning to Bnei Ruven, where it has once again been housed for the past 16 years.
The new campus is being built on leafy, residential Whipple Street, right next to Bnei Ruven, on the site of three private homes that had previously served as dorms. The homes were made vacant following the recent purchase of a nearby three-story commercial dorm facility, which took the place of several private houses scattered throughout the neighborhood.
The state-of-the-art campus is supported, in part, by Walder Foundation. Founded by Joseph and Elizabeth Walder, the Foundation’s funding interests include science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life.
“My husband and I have supported day school education initiatives for many years because education is so central to a vibrant Orthodox community,” said Elizabeth Walder, president and executive director of Walder Foundation. “We are drawn to opportunities to create enriching learning environments where young people can flourish. Lubavitch Girls High School already contributes greatly to our community, and we look forward to seeing them move into this inviting new campus, where both faculty life and student life can blossom.”
The new building, built to accommodate up to 200 students, will have 12 classrooms, including a fully-stocked resource room, state-of-the-art laboratories for chemistry, biology and STEM, and even an art/pottery room with a built-in commercial kiln.
One special feature of the building is the sun-drenched and accessible student lounge, with couches, study nooks and other spaces designed for comfort.
“Sending our daughter to a school that serves both in- and out-of-town students, this space is especially important to us,” says R. Aaron Kaplan, whose daughter is in 12th grade. “This will be the place where the girls can relax, socialize and form long-term friendships.”
Another unique feature of the school is the extensive suite of rooms for extracurricular activities, including computer stations, crafting space, and room to hang out and bounce around ideas.
“The fact that so much space is devoted to Bnos Chabad and student life speaks volumes about how the administration values the place BC has in our school culture,” says Mrs. Mushky Lipskier, director of extracurricular activities. “From running out of tiny offices and painting in the hallways, our girls will now have ample room to plan, work on, and prepare for the dozens of programs Bnos Chabad provides throughout the year. This space will be a game-changer for our girls!”
Recognizing the importance of mental health, the building also includes a spacious terrace where students can step out for a quick breath of fresh air or even for a quiet phone call. It also includes rooms where students can discreetly speak to a mental health professional or school mentor or coach, both in person or via secure computers.
“Especially following the unpredictable Covid times, we see an increased need to build up resilience, and have trained our staff accordingly,” explains Mrs. Chaya Epstein, who directs student services. “These private spaces create a safe space for the girls to open up and feel heard.”
The building also has amenities for the school’s staff, including a covered parking lot, lounge and work areas, meeting rooms, and a babysitting room.
“The Lubavitch Girls High School’s mission to provide excellent Judaic education for young women aligns with the Foundation’s goals to advance women as leaders in our community,” said Jenni Richton, senior program officer for Jewish Life at Walder Foundation. “We are excited to see the new campus take shape and to provide a setting where young women can learn and grow.”
In total, the new school building will cover 30,000 square feet, almost all of it above ground, designed by the award-winning architects of Morgante Wilson Architects, with lead architect Fred Wilson.
According to administrator Rabbi Shua Greenspan, construction is set to begin in earnest toward the end of the winter of 2023 and phase one of the project is expected to be completed the following spring. Later phases of the wide-ranging project will include an additional 30,000 square feet and will add a gym, kitchen, and social hall. That phase will also bring major upgrades to Bnei Ruven’s building, which has become too small for the growing community’s burgeoning needs.
Referring to LGHS as a “home away from home” for her daughter, Dina Harlig, LGHS parent and shlucha to southern Nevada, predicts that the new building “will allow for expansion and enhance the program even more” and asserts that she looks forward to it enabling them to “continue to share the knowledge of Torah and Chassidus to our future generations.”
About Walder Foundation
The Walder Foundation was established by Joseph and Elizabeth Walder to address critical issues impacting our world. The Foundation’s five areas of focus—science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life—are an extension of the Walders’ lifelong passions, interests, and their personal and professional experiences.
Walder Foundation’s Jewish Life program supports the long-term sustainability of a safe, connected and thriving community with a focus on quality education; mental health and human services; security to combat hate and anti-Semitism; and the advancement of men and women as future leaders in the community.
For more information visit www.walderfoundation.org.
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