Seven years ago, Lubavitch Chabad of the Loop, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park took out a $4.9 million loan to build what was supposed to be a state-of-the-art synagogue and community center at Chestnut and Clark streets.
As collateral, the group offered the Chabad House of the Loop, where Jewish travelers and members of the Hasidic Orthodox community go for worship, religious classes and meals. It was also the home of the group's leader, Rabbi Meir Chai Benhiyoun.
But when the economic downturn caused construction plans to fall apart, Benhiyoun not only lost his dream for an Orthodox community center. He now stands to lose the roof over his head.
On Wednesday, the brownstone on North Dearborn Avenue that has housed Chabad for 12 years, and where Benhiyoun and his wife, Rivka, are still raising six children, was to go on the auction block. Benhiyoun is praying for an 11th-hour miracle to save his home and keep his community together.
"I hope and trust this story will end with a positive ending," Benhiyoun said. "A bank should not have a record of foreclosing on a synagogue where a rabbi lives with his six children." (...)
Benhiyoun said in 2007 donations took a nose dive and the bank changed its rules. Unable to meet the bank's new demands, the community tried to sell the property on Chestnut. But it wasn't able to do that either. The bank was asking for more, but people were giving less, he said. A spokeswoman for The Private Bank declined to comment.
"The whole environment changed," Benhiyoun said. "The community changed because they got scared. You can't squeeze a lemon out of a turnip." (...)