Just over a year after moving into the building, Chabad of Virginia has become its own landlord in the VCU area.
The nonprofit Jewish community organization recently bought 1003 Grove Ave. for $1.3 million. It has occupied the 172-year-old house and operated its Jewish Life at VCU center there.
Chabad of Virginia’s headquarters are on Gaskins Road in western Henrico County, but director of development Ruth Greene said Chabad had operated Jewish Life at VCU at another off-campus location for about six years before moving into the Grove Avenue space last year.
“It’s a Jewish center for students. It’s more of a social place of connection, and where students’ friends and faculty learn about Judaism or Jewish culture and break down barriers,” Greene said, noting that Chabad of Virginia operates Jewish student centers at many other Virginia universities, including UVA, William & Mary and Virginia Tech.
“Students from all backgrounds, Jewish or not, are able to come and be together there,” she said.
Chabad of Virginia’s previous VCU-area home was near campus, but Greene said it wasn’t directly adjacent as the Grove Avenue building is. The proximity to campus has allowed Jewish Life at VCU to grow its events, which range from Friday Shabbat dinners to Passover Seders.
“It’s like a home away from home,” Greene said. “It’s been so successful. The students love having a place to go.”
Last year Chabad signed a lease that included an option to buy the 4,600-square-foot building. The Kang family had owned the real estate for decades and John Kang said his mother lived there until her death in 2020. Greene said Chabad and the Kangs hit it off right away.
“I think (the Kangs) were happy to see the house used for a positive thing,” she said. “They can come whenever they want. They have a standing invitation.”
Chabad’s purchase closed April 18. The city most recently assessed the property at $907,000. Greene said that Chabad raised funds to finance the acquisition, and that it plans to continue fundraising to pay for some renovations to the historic house. That work likely will include renovating bathrooms and repairing ceilings.
“It does need a lot of work done. We’re actually going through the process now so we can get on the National Registry of Historic Places so we preserve the things that need to be preserved,” Greene said.
Greene said she hopes that the Jewish Life at VCU center, with its permanent home on Grove, can help combat the increase of antisemitism on college campuses throughout the country.
“I think a lot of prejudice is actually really ignorance. Once you meet people and make friends of what that other culture might be, you’re like, ‘Oh, I get it. These people are fine,’” Greene said. “I hope it’ll go a long way toward improving relationships and reducing antisemitism or eliminating it entirely on this campus and hopefully throughout the state.”