[Posted December 18, 2020]
Chabad House, at 2317 SW Vermont St. in Hillsdale, was the site of two fires over the summer. The first one damaged the building, but the second one, now the subject of an arson investigation, destroyed the Jewish religious and cultural center.
An article posted to Oregonlive on December 11 seemed to report that Chabad House is considering relocation following the fires. A conversation with Rabbi Motti Wilhelm of Chabad House clarified that it is the retail outlet Everything Jewish, also housed at the site, that is considering relocating to a different part of the city, not Chabad House itself.
Wilhelm explained that “only the retail store is going through a strategic planning process to determine the best location from which it can serve the community. Other functions of Chabad House are not considering a relocation.”
Wilhelm said contributions to the online fund to rebuild are coming in both nationally and internationally from supporters who want to make sure that religious freedom remains secure in the US. While rebuilding is certain and the fundraising campaign is growing, the building is so severely damaged that Chabad House may not be rebuilt on the same lot, but it will remain in the community close to The Gan Preschool and Maimonides Jewish Day School, which are located across Vermont St.
Wilhelm doesn’t know whether the arson was motivated by anti-Jewish or anti-religious motives or if it was “just troublemakers.” In either case, he said, we should take this very seriously. “We are seeing a major uptick in petty vandalism like graffiti, including a swastika on a stop sign, as well as the destruction of banners,” he said. “Whether this is just trouble, or whether it’s targeted, I think our neighborhood has to have a serious discussion. People come here because it’s safe, the schools are good, but now we have private security on Shabbat all over the neighborhood. This is not the Hillsdale of just five years ago.”
Rabbi Wilhelm expressed the wish to extend an invitation to everyone in the community, and in particular leaders of our local civic institutions, to visit the burned-out remains of Chabad House in the hope that residents and leaders will engage to ensure that our neighborhood is the beautiful place that we all want it to be.
What aspects of our Hillsdale community do you value most and how can we preserve them? Let us know.