Myron "Mike" Shevell wants to build the biggest Jewish student center in the country in his home state of New Jersey.
The head of the Shevell Group of Companies, a transportation services business based in Elizabeth and vice chairman of the board of New Jersey Transit will Tuesday announce a $500,000 donation to the Chabad House Jewish Student Center at Rutgers University.
The gift will go toward the completion of a $10 million fund-raising campaign the organization embarked on to expand the Chabad House by 55,000 square feet and provide students with a new synagogue, programs and living space. The expanded center is set to open in the spring.
Specifically, Mr. Shevell's gift will go to create a Torah studies program for Rutgers students, who will receive a financial stipend to complete 60 semester hours of study. In return, they will receive a certificate and stipend at the end of the program.
"Jewish kids have their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah and forget about Judaism," he says. "I want to give them an incentive to not forget about their religion and heritage."
He will present the gift at the organization's National Founders Dinner, where the group will honor Gov. Chris Christie. It expects to raise close to $3 million, reaching nearly three-fourths of its fund-raising goal.
"The center gives strength to the university and the community," Mr. Shevell says, who became involved in the center in 2006 when his son, Jon, was honored for his service to the organization.
When Jon died at age 50 in 2008, "I picked up the pieces," he says.
"Jon had been very active in the new building and in his will said he wanted to help further Jewish studies, I did what any parent would do."
The Chabad House decided to expand its center and began construction in November 2008, sparked by the killing of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, in a Chabad House in Mumbai. The deaths were part of coordinated terrorist attacks across Mumbai.
"If this is what is going to happen in the world, we thought, we have to counter it with some force of good," says Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, who led the Chabad House for more than 30 years.
The original building was constructed in 1994 and was the first Jewish presence on the main campus, he says.
Today, more than 5,000 Jewish and non-Jewish students utilize its programs every year.
"What was once a sleepy town, our needs have grown tremendously," Rabbi Carlebach says.
The additional space and amenities will include a men's dormitory and graduate student housing, an expanded Kosher dining hall and auditorium to accommodate 770 students, an international coffee house, student lounges, newly expanded kitchens and a Sephardic synagogue.