Springfield’s Chabad Center purchases former Red Cross building

Rabbi Mendy Turen is calling it a Hanukkah miracle.

The Chabad Jewish Center of Springfield has purchased a building at 1045 Outer Park Dr. to be its new home.

The edifice commonly known as the Red Cross building, since the main floor used to house the Springfield chapter of the American Red Cross, is undergoing renovations to become a worship center for the Hasidic group, which serves Jewish people of various traditions.

“The plan for the building is to have a Jewish center where Judaism is alive. It's going to be a little bit of a different setup than traditional synagogue as we know it. Chabad is famous for not being a traditional synagogue,” said Turen.

The word "Chabad" is a Hebrew acronym for wisdom, understanding and knowledge. It's a movement that is dedicated to studying the Torah, living by the scriptures and reaching out and helping every Jew, Turen said.

Springfield's Chabad Center, which currently is located at 2467 S. MacArthur Blvd. in the Town and Country Shopping Center, will move to the new location in April, he said. The center is operated by Turen and his wife, Sara, and has been in Springfield for about six years. The first five years the center operated out of their home, and in June 2021 it moved to its current location.

“We got news that the entire Town and Country Shopping Center that we rented from was sold.  We still have our lease and it's still in effect. But the fellow from Florida who purchased the place plans on redoing the entire center, which … is definitely exciting. But we have to leave by the end of April.”

Turen said when they began their search for a property to buy, he “as a joke” sent a listing for the Outer Park building to a supporter assisting with the search. He said it was sent in good fun because it was much bigger than they had initially planned. The supporter said he would help with financing the acquisition of the three-story building, which sold for $500,000.

“As it's the days of Hanukkah, this is a time that we celebrate miracles -- miracles of the past -- and also the miracles that God continues to do,” Turen said. “And we feel that purchasing this building in our current situation for this price is nothing less than a modern-day miracle. Or maybe you could say modern day mini-miracle.”

Turen said some supporters have provided interest-free financing so that the ownership of the building could change hands Dec. 19. The next step will be to begin a fundraising campaign within Springfield’s Jewish community to repay the loans.

The first floor of the new building will include a worship center and other amenities highlighting Springfield’s Jewish heritage. Some ideas being contemplated are to have a museum highlighting Jewish culture and a kosher market.

The upper two stories will be office space that the center will lease out. A current tenant is the Springfield Jewish Federation, which Turen said he hopes continues to rent.

Turen said the Chabad Center is working with architects to develop final plans for the building. A grand opening will take place when renovations are complete, he said.

Scott Reeder, a staff writer for Illinois Times, can be reached at [email protected].

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