Alum Amitai Loew (’10), who attended UIC and lived near campus for the past two years, went to Chabad almost every Shabbat. As his parting gift to the family, he used his talent for carpentry to create a shulchan for their shul by hand.

The Shemtov family there, says Amitai does an absolutely incredible job. “They’re honestly a model of what a campus chabad should be.”

Amitai has a degree in Industrial Design where he spent a lot of time working with his hands in the school’s prototyping workshops. He was able to learn woodworking on his own there and now works for Vero Design + Build. Coincidentally, the company built the aronot, bimahs, shtenders and mechitzas at the new ICJA building

Amitai writes:

Every week Rabbi Bentzy and Chani Shemtov (along with their four wonderful boys) open their home to all Jews, no matter their background, to gather around their Shabbat table. My experience (and that of many others) at UIC was transformed by the warmth, food, hospitality, comfort, friendship, and food that Chabad UIC so selflessly provides.

But there’s another table – less celebrated but equally important. It’s in the basement, in the sanctuary where we gather to pray. For the past fewyears, a woefully small IKEA table has filled the role of holding the Torah as we read the weekly portion. It’s a little too small to hold the scroll, and a little too short to stand at to read comfortably. It gets the job done but never felt sufficient.

My parting gift to this treasure of a family has been to design and build a real Bimah, worthy of the beautiful community that they have built, so that those who come to Chabad can gather around the table and the Torah.