In the aftermath of a fire that ravaged the UCSB Chabad House three weeks ago, the Orthodox Jewish religious center has remained at the service of the local community.
According to the Santa Barbara Fire Dept., the fire began in a bedroom at the home – located at 779 Camino Pescadero – on Feb. 8. The flames then proceeded to scorch entire portions of the first and second floors, ultimately rendering the Chabad House unfit to provide services to the community.
In the wake of the fire, Rabbi Mendel, his wife Rochel Loschak and their four children were forced to relocate to Goleta. However, the family has ordered an RV trailer and a tent in order to resume serving Shabbat dinner from the makeshift facility stationed at the site of the fire come Friday.
While Loschak said carrying on in the absence of a reliable venue has proved challenging, she said her family is committed to its work in Isla Vista.
“It’s been very hectic,” Loschak said. “We hosted Pizza Parsha in the UCen the day after the fire, but there was a will, so there was a way. It’s what we love to do. We are here for the students, not for ourselves, and we weren’t going to let the fire stop us.”
Since the fire, Rabbi Mendel said dozens of students – as well as Santa Barbara Hillel and Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi – have offered a help to the Chabad family.
“The community has been very supportive and it’s greatly appreciated,” Mendel said. “A couple students even came over to my parents’ last night to help cook Shabbos dinner.”
Michael Khorshidi, a fourth-year anthropology major, said that along with many members of the local Jewish community, he is appreciative of the tireless effort by the Chabad family.
“Shabbat is a time to relax, to come together with your friends and to be in the presence of people you love,” Khorshidi said. “Rabbi Mendel and Rochel work so hard to recreate the Shabbat atmosphere for so many students who are away from their families, and we really appreciate it.”
Rabbi Mendel said the Chabad House is currently accepting monetary contributions so the family can replace items lost in the fire.
“All donations have gone to new things that can’t be used anymore, down to salad bowls – we don’t have salad bowls anymore,” Mendel said. “But we believe that if you are faced with a challenge, instead of letting it depress you, instead of focusing on sadness, you must look to rebuild and to persevere.”
Students can make a donation to the Chabad House by logging on to www.jewcsb.com.