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Jewish community leader seeks to build Chabad house

A place of worship and community service has been proposed for the southern corner of Clarkson Road and Clarkson Woods Drive.

The proposed Chabad house would be located at 2264 Clarkson Road, between the Clarkson Woods subdivision and the Clarkson Wilson Center commercial development on a .99-acre parcel.

A Chabad house is a form of Jewish community center that provides educational and outreach activities.

The Chabad of Chesterfield is requesting a zoning amendment from Planned Commercial and R-2 Residential to R-4 Residential, which would allow a place of worship. Chabad of Chesterfield is the local center of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement. It is directed by Rabbi Avi and Chana’la Rubenfeld.

At the Jan. 13 Planning Commission meeting, Rabbi Rubenfeld said the outreach programs are currently held in a private home and they would like to provide more space to host programs, activities and services.

Rabbi Avi Rubenfeld

With 10,000 to 12,000 Jewish people living in the area, the combination house and church would serve both educational and observance purposes, he said. It would have no set hours, but would instead “cater to the needs and demands of the community.” The open-door policy is designed to encourage people to visit, he said.

Many spoke in favor of the proposed development at the Jan. 13 pubic hearing. Dr. Jay Pepose, of the PeposeVision Institute, approved of the proposed Chabad house calling it a “force for good.”

Dan Haberer also supports the plan, saying Chabad houses are doing a wonderful job across the world.

Julie Vielbaum said it has a tremendous positive force and that Chabad “brings life and purpose anywhere you go.”

However, a few speakers were opposed to the Chabad house or had hesitations about it.

Rich Scheerer said with that small piece of land there would be no buffer between the single-family homes and the development and that it would obstruct the view at one of the main entrances to the subdivision.

Scheerer also feared it would set a precedent going forward and that Clarkson Road would begin to look like Manchester Road with “everything packed together.”

Saying she was in the mortgage business herself, Cindy Barmeier countered Vielbaum’s claim that the Chabad house would improve property values.

“I don’t know what the plans are, but it would more than likely have a negative impact on property values,” Barmeier said.

Ultimately, the commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval of the rezoning. The measure will go before the Planning and Public Works Committee for review prior to going before the City Council.

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