Rabbi Nachum and Devorah Mangel, directors of the Chabad Center of Greater Dayton couldn’t believe their good fortune.
After ten years of working out of cramped storefront quarters, they had more than outgrown the space and were desperately seeking a permanent location.
Rabbi Mangel recalls the day about two years ago when the chairman of Chabad's advisory board, Dr. Dan German, asked him where in the city he would like to be. "I told him that it would be nice if we could be in Oakwood which is centrally located between the north and south Jewish communities of Dayton. And I particularly liked one specific corner where there was a Unitarian Fellowship building.”
Seizing the opportunity, Dr. German immediately drove over to the Unitarian building and walked in on what looked like a meeting in progress. He asked them whether they would consider selling the building and they said "Yes, that’s precisely what our meeting is about right now."
Call it Divine Providence or call it "bashert," the building was destined to be the new home for Chabad’s Weprin Center for Jewish Life and Learning.
The 10,000 square foot building was in good condition structurally but needed remodeling and a face lift. It also needed a completely new sanctuary. As luck would have it, the current chairman of their advisory board, Dr. Burt Saidel, was an accomplished wood craftsman and had built synagogue pieces as a hobby.
He and several friends, who call themselves ‘the G-d Squad’ custom built the cherry-wood ark, bimah, mechitzah, chairs and other ceremonial items needed. “Every shul in the area has a piece of their work, but we have a complete set,” said Rabbi Mangel.
The center opened in time for this year’s Rosh Hashana services. For Mangel and other members of the community, it was a defining moment in the history of the neighborhood.
“Thirty five years ago, Jews were not welcome here” said Mangel. “There are still residents who remember the strong anti-Semitic feelings. However, our center has created a sea change in the community. Both Jews and non-Jews worked together to welcome Chabad into their midst.”