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UD’s Chabad Center building back better after arson

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
The back of the Chabad Center on South College Ave. after it was damaged by arson last year

It’s been a year since the University of Delaware’s Chabad Center for Jewish Life was hit by arson. The Center plans a comeback, with a new, bigger building. 

Rabbi Avremel Vogel’s world was “turned upside down” last summer by the fire he saw as an attack on the University of Delaware’s Jewish community.  

“Growing up in this wonderful state, I never thought it could happen to us,” he said. 

Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
The Chabad Center at the University of Delaware

Vogel is with Chabad Lubavitch of Delaware, the nonprofit separate from UD that serves students at the Chabad Center. On Monday he unveiled plans for a new building—funded largely by donations—that will replace the small blue house on South College Ave.  

“That unprecedented act has given way to an unprecedented wave of love and support,” he said.

The new building will include gathering spaces, an industrial kitchen, living space for Vogel and his family, guest rooms, and a backyard for events. It could break ground as early as this fall.

A rendering of the building that will replace the current Chabad Center house


Vogel says the group has raised nearly two-thirds of the project’s roughly $3.5 million price tag. 

Newark Mayor Jerry Clifton said at Monday’s event that the perpetrator of the arson must not know Newark. 

“Because Newarkers respond,” he said. “We don’t respond in kind, we don’t respond with hatred, we respond with a better idea. And that better idea is one of love and inclusivity.”

The State Fire Marshal’s office says the fire is still under investigation, and has not been linked as a hate crime. 

Leaders of the Chabad Center, the University and elected officials—including then-candidate Joe Biden—widely condemned the fire as an act of hatred.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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