Mainstreet Equity Corp. CEO Bob Dhillon is providing Saskatoon’s Chabad House with free rent until it can find a new home.
Dhillon, who runs the Alberta-based rental company, explained that this donation of rental fees isn’t part of some established program or initiative, rather just an isolated act of kindness.
“We wanted to help these rabbis out and that’s it,” said Dhillon, who said he is Sikh, but very close to the Jewish community.
“A lot of my shareholders are Jewish, and a lot of the people I work with are Jewish,” he said, adding that when they learned of his donation, they encouraged him to share his story, so as to encourage other landlords to follow suit.
Dhillon said he wanted to help the rabbis, because “they help humanity and spread the word of spiritualism.”
Rabbi Raphael Kats, director of the Chabad Jewish Discovery Centre of Saskatoon, explained that for the past five years, the Chabad House operated out of residential units in a building that was owned by Triple Five, an Edmonton-based real estate company.
“The previous owner was a Jewish man from Edmonton, and he was graciously donating the rent. Now that the ownership has switched hands, Bob has also generously decided to sponsor the rent for a few months until we are able to find another location,” Rabbi Kats said.
“Once the sale went through [in July]… we emailed the [Mainstreet] head office and we explained the situation and said we’d appreciate a buffer zone until we are able to find a new location.”
Rabbi Kats, who estimated that he serves a community of about 1,000 Jews in Saskatoon, said Mainstreet is granting Chabad free rent until October, and in the meantime, the Chabad House is looking for a new home.
“If we’re going to be paying rent, I’d rather it go toward a mortgage and purchase a property for the Chabad House,” he said, adding that Chabad is currently viewing properties and is raising money from the community “and elsewhere” to help pay for it.
Dhillon said this isn’t the first time his company has gone to bat for people in need.
According to a press release in May, Mainstreet provided three months rent for Fort McMurray forest fire victims, “50 Edmonton apartment suites to victims of the Slave Lake forest fire in Alberta… [and] 200 apartments in Western Canada for Syrian refugees.”
But Dhillon said this is the first time the company has offered support to “men of God.”
Although he insisted this was a one-off donation, “the facts are, we did help… these rabbis in Saskatoon who are going through a transitional time until they… buy a house.”
He said when he learned that there were rabbis in need of a helping hand, he was surprised, because, like many, he assumed Jews were affluent.
“All the Jews I know are millionaires,” he said.
When he learned about Rabbi Kats’ predicament, he flew to Saskatoon in August to meet with him.
“He’s trying to spread the word of Judaism in Saskatoon, and if I can contribute to that, I’m willing to do that,” Dhillon said.
“There was a need for these rabbis and we stepped up to the plate because we… love Israel and we love the Jewish community of Canada.”
Rabbi Kats said Dhillon’s support is “amazing.”
“We thank him very much for his generosity and his understanding of our situation here in Saskatoon and being sensitive to the needs of the Jewish community.”