Wednesday, / August 12, 2020
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In their latest move, Illini Chabad has unveiled a purpose-built innovation and study co-working space.

Conceptualized by U of I alumni Steve Mendes and funded in part by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Goldstick family, the new space offers students at the University of Illinois a collaborative environment to learn about the basics of entrepreneurship and source internships in their chosen field of study.

Work on the the CME Goldstick Tech Innovation Lab in the Illini Chabad Center began mid-May and is now in its final stages of construction, with a grand opening planned for the beginning of the school year. With an estimated 4,000 Jewish students living on the U of I campus, a majority of whom are involved in Chabad activities, the center will be a welcome addition to the steadily-growing roster of services Chabad offers the campus’ Jewish population.

“Chabad seeks to support the students’ professional ambitions and personal needs through this project,” said Rabbi Dovid Teichtel, director of Illini Chabad. “We want students here to feel part of a vibrant community. Connections with others are a big reason why people study in a communal space,” and this space in particular, he says, ”has its own vibe:” located on the second floor of the Illini Chabad House, the lab is decked out in top-of-the-line equipment, including computers, presentation TV screens, and a printer, with an attention to detail that is evident in such features as USB wall outlets. The overall effect is a very techy, modern one—an ideal environment for ideas to percolate and take shape.

The new space is more than just a lab: Chabad plans to organize “thought-leadership programming,” where students can enjoy one-on-one lessons on various topics with mentors who are industry leaders in their respective fields. As well, the center, which will be open for longer hours than the usual library or study hall enabling students to take advantage of the space even after a long day of work and study, will offer kosher food, Torah classes, and the opportunity to connect with other Jews on campus.

Jeffrey R. Brown, the Josef and Margot Lakonishok Professor of Business and Dean College of Business University of Illinois, views the lab as an important contribution to the University. “The College of Business has made the teaching and practice of innovation one of our highest priorities . . . This space at Chabad will join our MakerLab and the forthcoming Siebel design center on campus to provide students with opportunities to study, create, innovate and collaborate together, making the University of Illinois a premier destination for students who want to make their mark on the world.”

“Many don’t know that Chabad isn’t just for Shabbat or the high holidays,” notes Illini Chabad alumna Rebecca Schraiber, who graduated last year with a master’s degree in accounting. “Rabbi Dovid and Goldie work tirelessly to ensure that Chabad is there whenever and for anybody. This lab serves as an extension of all that Chabad has to offer its students.”

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