April 17, 2024
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April 17, 2024
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Rutgers Chabad Raises $2M at Dinner and Pays Off Mortgage

Rutgers Chabad House chair Danny Kahane lights the paid off mortgage on fire. Looking on from left is Murray Kushner, TD Bank representative Brittany Gregg, Donald Epstein, Jonathan Kushner and Rabbi Yosef Carlebach. (Credit: Shahar Azran)

More than just the lights burned brightly on the first night of Chanukah at Rutgers Chabad. The 45th annual National Founders Anniversary dinner on Dec. 7 raised approximately $2 million and allowed the $6 million mortgage on the more than $20 million New Brunswick facility to literally be burned before the 360 attendees.

“Tonight is a double celebration,” said Chabad Executive Director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, who noted it was the first time since he arrived in New Brunswick as a young rabbi more than four decades earlier to establish Rutgers Chabad that he did not have to worry about a mortgage because of moves and expansions.

“It’s an interesting life to wake up every morning and have to live for the sake of the bank,” said Rabbi Carlebach who noted those monthly payments were as high as $60,000. That money can now be earmarked to “move forward” with programming and services.

New Jersey State Police Superintendent Patrick Callahan (second from left) joins in the dancing at the Rutgers Chabad dinner. (Credit: Shahar Azran) 

The current 90,000 square-foot building, the largest Chabad House in the world, opened in stages starting with its banquet hall in December 2012, added a boys’ dorm in 2013 to its already existing a girls’ dorm, and a Sephardi synagogue in 2014 to go along with its already existing Ashkenazi synagogue, among other improvements.

The dinner honored Jonathan Kushner, president of the Jersey City-based KRE Group; Dr. Elliot Rudnitzky, a cardiologist with practices in Millburn and Edison and an attending physician at JFK University Medical Center in Edison; and Yaakov Kurlantzick, a 2021 graduate of Rutgers and now an aerospace engineer at Lockheed Martin.

The evening was marked by many special moments, including a touching appearance by Orian Gablan, an Israeli student at Rutgers who came to the university just weeks before the outbreak of the war. She arrived at Chabad’s door crying uncontrollably and was greeted by Rebbetzin Sarah Goodman who comforted her although they had never before met after learning that Gablan had just found out her best friend had been killed.

“I’m sorry you haven’t met Ben,” she said. “He was a great guy.”

Yaakov Kurlantzick (center), a 2021 graduate of Rutgers University active in Chabad, was honored at the dinner. He is shown with Chabad Rabbi Shaya Shagalow (left) and Chabad Executive Director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach. (Credit: Shahar Azran)

Gablan, who was presented with a bouquet of flowers, added she was grateful for the support and friends she found at Chabad House.

The war with Hamas also overshadowed the celebration in other ways. Entertainment was provided by well-known Israeli singer Tal Vaknin, an IDF commander in the reserves who has been serving in Gaza but received permission to fly in that morning to perform.

Rabbi Yosef Carlebach spoke of the many projects students at Chabad had undertaken to support Israel. The strong connection between Chabad and law enforcement was also evident. Rabbi Carlebach is a state police chaplain and Chabad Administrator Rabbi Mendy Carlebach is a chaplain for the Port Authority of New and New Jersey.

Jonathan Kushner (second from left), president of the Jersey City-based KRE Group, was honored for his contributions to Rutgers Chabad. With him are (from left) Chabad Administrator Rabbi Mendy Carlebach; wife Kim; and Executive Director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach. (Credit: Shahar Azran) 

Among the attendees were State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan; Deputy Superintendent Lt. Col. Sean Kilcommons; Rutgers University Police Chief Kenneth Cop; New Jersey Transit Police Chief Chistopher Trucillo; Port Authority Police Superintendent and Director of Public Safety Edward Cetnar; and NYPD Inspector Richie Taylor, the highest ranking Orthodox officer in the department.

Kushner oversees the operating portfolio at the full service real estate, investment, development and management company with properties in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Southeast.

A major contributor to Rutgers Chabad, Kushner said he learned from his father Murray and grandmother Rae Kushner to “never to say no to charity” and cited his longtime friendship with Rabbi Yosef Carlebach and all the good work Rutgers Chabad does.

“When there is darkness in the world the best way to counter it is to share light in the world,” said Kushner. “For us as Jews right now the world seems like a pretty dark place.” However, he added, it was his hope that his family together with Chabad could make the world a better place.

Rudnitzky is a Linden, New Jersey native and member of the board at Congregation Anshe Chesed, having previously served for six years as president, the longest tenure in that position in the synagogue’s history. In addition to clinical care at the hospital he is also on its executive and ethics committees and has contributed to various medical societies’ ethics committees.

Dr. Elliot Rudnitzky (second from left), a cardiologist and attending physician at JFK University Medical Center in Edison, was honored for his longtime relationship with Chabad. Shown left to right are his wife Sandye; Chabad Executive Director Rabbi Yosef Carlebach; and Chabad Administrator Rabbi Mendy Carlebach. (Credit: Shahar Azran)

Rudnitzky said his “profound” 45-year relationship with Rabbi Yosef Carlebach and Chabad House remains instrumental and at a time when Jewish people are being treated horribly. “Chabad is bringing Jewish people to Judaism.”

Kurlantzick, who graduated magna cum laude with a degree in mechanical engineering, lived in the Chabad dorms and fully immersed himself in daily prayers and social activities there. He still returns to visit friends. “It really made my entire Rutgers experience worthwhile,” said Kurlantzick because, in addition to his engineering education, Chabad “is the face of the Jewish people.

“There are many schools to study engineering but not many schools with this Chabad and this staff and people,” said Kurlantzick, who announced he was donating $25,000 to Chabad.

Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly and daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University.

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