Chabad Jewish Center of Central Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University has bought a mansion in Guilford. Settlement on the circa-1919 house, one of the original Guilford residences, was held last Monday, Sept. 26, and Rabbi Zev Gopin, the Hopkins Chabad rabbi, said he and his family are in the process of moving in.
“It’s a beautiful, magnificent Guilford estate,” said Rabbi Gopin, “and there are boxes everywhere.”
Nonetheless, he and his wife, Hannah, are hosting a Rosh Hashanah dinner there as the house’s inaugural event after the Chabad sponsored services at The Inn at The Colonnade. The rabbi said that invitations have been issued to the Jewish residents who live in the high-rise buildings on Charles Street.
Part of Chabad Lubavitch, Hopkins Chabad represents the movement at Hopkins university, medical institutions and hospital. Hopkins Chabad participates in programs and the Orthodox minyan at the Smokler Jewish student center on the Hopkins Homewood campus.
“There is a strong sense of unity among the Jewish community at Hopkins,” said Rabbi Gopin.
Hopkins Chabad also serves the Jews who live in the neighboring areas, including Roland Park, Guilford and Homeland. The rabbi called it a “small but involved” group of residents.
The newly purchased mansion, located on Charles Street just north of University Parkway, cost $1.8 million. Chabad fund-raising covered some of the purchase price, but most came from a benefactor who lent Chabad money with the expectation of being paid back, according to Rabbi Gopin.
While the mansion serves as the residence of Rabbi and Mrs. Gopin and their children, Dovid, 3, and Etta, 11, it is also intended to be an example of the beauty and spirituality found in a Jewish home.
“We feel there is a unique message we can convey to Jewish students by inviting them to a Jewish home where they might otherwise not experience what a Shabbos table is, what our Jewish family values are,” said Rabbi Gopin.
“This house serves as a prototypical Jewish home,” he continued. “Many times, students have Jewish experiences that leave an everlasting impact,” and he said he is hoping that seeing what Jewish home life is like will be one of them. “Going to a center, attending an event – that might not happen.”
Rabbi Gopin is the founding Hopkins Chabad rabbi. He came to Baltimore from New York in September 2003. Originally, he and his wife, a native of Belgium who is familiar with the Chabad House at the University of Brussels, rented an apartment in the area.
“We started small and luckily, thank God, we saw a need for a bigger space,” he said. He added that the neighborhood in which the mansion is located is residential, and thus Hopkins Chabad will not be holding events and/or ongoing services in the mansion.
Rabbi Gopin said that he felt it was important for Chabad to have a presence in Baltimore and, interestingly, in a neighborhood that once reportedly excluded certain minority groups.
He said that at settlement, the seller of the property handed him an original, handwritten Guilford covenant. Although the rabbi hasn’t had an opportunity to read it, he understands that “there is exclusive language indicating who can live there.” He was told that this exclusionary language was apparently omitted from the printed version of the covenant.
“I feel it’s a big milestone that a rabbi has moved into Guilford,” said Rabbi Gopin, who is only the fourth owner of the mansion. “It took a lot of effort and work to put this together – an enormous undertaking, what with the value of the property. It’s a large house where we feel there is ample space to invite people.”
But Rabbi Gopin said Chabad Lubavitch was “more than happy” to undertake the ambitious project.
“We are absolutely impressed with the Baltimore Jewish community,” he said. “It’s been very supportive of what we do, and we feel we have a strong future here.”