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Alum Donates $1 Million to New Chabad at Yale Building

Alum Donates $1 Million to New Chabad at Yale Building

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At 8,500 square feet, Yale University’s new Chabad House will be eight times the size of the organization’s current digs.
At 8,500 square feet, Yale University’s new Chabad House will be eight times the size of the organization’s current digs.

When private investor Brad Berger first stepped into Yale University’s Chabad House for a Friday night dinner during a trip back east two years ago, he was taken aback. He had heard about the throngs of Jewish students who sought out a “home away from home” at the center run by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shua and Sara Rosenstein, but this was the first time he had actually experienced such a thing at his alma mater.

“There was nothing like this when I was there,” says Berger, a varsity basketball player who earned a degree in economics in 1977. “Yale is probably 20 to 25 percent Jewish, and is training our world’s future leaders. To see predominantly secular Jewish students further connect with their heritage, engaged in meaningful Jewish discussions: It really tugged at my heart.”

This week, Berger announced a $1 million naming donation as part of a $6 million capital campaign that will see the Chabad House relocate from its current 1,100-square foot facility to a vastly-expanded 8,500-square-foot 3-story former fraternity house. Named in honor of Berger’s great-grandparents, Herman and Faye Berger and four of their children, who perished in the Holocaust, the Berger Family Building is projected to open at the end of next year.

Shua Rosenstein, who founded Chabad at Yale in 2002, says that the gift is emblematic of a man’s philanthropic quest to strengthen Jewish life by bringing meaning and purpose to each individual.

“We are blessed and incredibly privileged by Brad Berger's philanthropic investment in Chabad at Yale,” says the Rabbi. “He is a partner who cares deeply about Jewish life at Yale, and in investing in the future of the Jewish people.”

For his part, Berger uses some of the same words when describing the Rosensteins’ dedication to making Jewish students feel at home with their heritage. He says that his friendship with the couple began with a cold call four and a half years ago.

“I made a small donation after that first telephone call,” recalls Berger, who moved to Beverly Hills, Calif., in 1998 after selling his commercial real estate development business in Westchester County, N.Y. “In 2007, Shua was out in Los Angeles cold calling more Yale alumni. He made an appointment with me, and we sat down for a good hour and a half after which I became a substantial contributor.”

The Rabbi’s traits that impressed Berger then – an enthusiastic confidence balanced by humility, along with a heart-felt belief in the power of authentic Jewish experiences – he personally saw at work in the Chabad House.

“Shua is effervescent, friendly, charming, funny, intelligent, approachable, and, most of all, sincere,” says Berger. “He loves what he does, and he’s passionate about everyone he comes in contact with. I know a lot of rabbis – and they’re all wonderful – but Shua has an unusual and fantastic repertoire of character traits that produces this magical experience for students.”

Sophomore Lian Zucker agrees.

“Coming into Yale, I definitely knew that I wanted to be involved in some facet of Jewish life on campus,” she says. “When I started going to Chabad, it felt like I was eating with my family. It felt like home.”

Berger, who recently dedicated a conference room overlooking the Western Wall at Aish HaTorah’s Jerusalem outreach campus in honor of his daughter Niki’s bat mitzvah, says that he chooses the projects he gets involved in based on their ability to positively impact the future of the Jewish people and subsequently all of mankind. At the Chabad House, he explains, he sees students transformed.

“Between the gourmet food and the informative lessons, stimulating conversations and entertaining stories, it’s a wonderful recipe,” he details. “And it’s all in a very safe, casual and non-judgmental environment.”

Of his choice to honor great-grandparents he never met, Berger says that he always keeps an eye to the past.

“It’s important to remember where we come from,” he relates. “I am truly grateful for all of my blessings and I feel privileged to make this dedication to this great organization.”



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