Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Location Location Location

The shaliach in Vancouver, Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg, was considering the most appropriate location to build the Chabad House. He asked the Rebbe whether to choose a location near the university, or in the residential area of the city. With his question, he included a map of the city, showing the main areas of population, the shuls, the university, and the main Jewish residential area. The Rebbe underlined the words “residential area” and circled a point on the map in its center, at Oak St. and 41st Ave.

Over the next five years, Rabbi Wineberg looked into purchasing several buildings. Nevertheless, the Rebbe always had reason to reject the acquisitions.

One day, Rabbi Wineberg was informed of a large parking lot that was up for sale. The location seemed attractive, but unfortunately the price was not. The owners were asking half a million dollars for the land. Rabbi Wineberg knew that the subsequent construction would cost even more.

Rabbi Wineberg favored seeking further alternatives. At that time, most other Chabad Houses in North America had taken over existing structures, rather than undertake the burden of building their own. And the Rebbe himself had advised Rabbi Wineberg to be conservative when it came to the cost of a building. Once when Rabbi Wineberg had proposed purchasing an existing building that would require a mortgage of 
2000 a month, the Rebbe had told him that the people in Vancouver might consider this too great an expense. Nevertheless, he consulted the Rebbe about pursuing the parking lot option and the Rebbe answered in the affirmative.

Together with one of his supporters, a Vancouver businessman named Jack Diamond, Rabbi Wineberg made a trip of several hours to the city of Calgary to visit the company which owned the parking lot. Devout Christians, the owners were impressed by Rabbi Wineberg’s cause and reconsidered their offer, lowering the price to 
375,000. Rabbi Wineberg told them he would consider the matter and returned to Vancouver.

For Rabbi Wineberg, 
375,000 was also a steep price and moreover, the owners wanted the entire sum to be paid immediately. Unsure of how to proceed, he again consulted the Rebbe who gave an encouraging answer. “Continue in this direction. We are now in the month of Adar when we intensify our joy. Plant with joy; sow with joy, build with joy. Success and blessing.”

After writing to Calgary to express his interest, but explaining his desire to negotiate regarding the terms, Rabbi Wineberg received a modified proposal from the parking lot owners which certainly must have made him joyous.

The owners agreed to deduct seven thousand dollars from the price. In addition, they asked for a down payment of only 
75,000, of which they promised to return 
50,000 to the Chabad House as a donation, and they agreed to receive the remainder over an extended period of time at a low rate of interest. Moreover, they promised to return the interest as a donation to the Chabad House, on the condition that it continue to function as a charitable organization.

The down payment was made with the help of local Lubavitch supporters, plans were quickly prepared for the building, and construction began shortly afterwards. It was completed in the month of Adar, the month of joy, and the first public function in the Chabad House was a Purim celebration.

Once, while going through his papers, Rabbi Wineberg happened to notice the original map of the city which he had sent the Rebbe. Until this time, he had assumed that by making a mark, the Rebbe was indicating the general area where the Chabad House should be located. Now, standing in the building of the Chabad House, he saw that it had been constructed on the precise point of the map which the Rebbe had marked.

“As our activities expanded,” Rabbi Wineberg concluded, “we realized that we could not have hoped for a more central and convenient location.”

To Know And To Care - R' Eli Touger