When Haifa Hillel's "new" facility was built, Abraham Lincoln was practicing law in Springfield, Illinois.
Pamela Chais and Yossie Goldman unveil The Chais Hillel Center in Haifa.
Haifa Hillel's new home is the wine cellar of a building constructed 150 years ago by a Christian religious order. It may be the world's oldest Hillel structure but its benefactor, U.S. philanthropist Stanley Chais, challenged Hillel students and staff to always be "on the cutting edge" of culture.
Chais addressed the ceremony to formally open the remodeled Haifa building which previously suffered leaks and other maladies common to century-old buildings. The renovations gave the Hillel a modern interior and created a warm, home-like atmosphere for students at Haifa University, the Technion and other area colleges. The Hillel, which began activities in makeshift facilities 18 months ago, has become a center of Jewish life for young people from across the city.
Technion Campus Coordinator Yohai Edery told participants that Haifa Hillel became a secure home away from home during the bombing of the city by Hezbollah in 2007. "This is a place that I can call home, and invite friends and maybe influence the future of the Jewish people," he said.
Student Daniel Cherolnikov explained that Haifa Hillel has an"x" factor: "You can do tikkun olam projects anywhere but Haifa Hillel puts tikkun olam in a Jewish ethical context. Here you can study Talmud or watch DVDs. I think Hillel himself would have liked that."
Presenters also included Haifa Hillel Executive Director Inbar Bluzer; Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone; Hillel Israel President Rabbi Yossie Goldman; student Moran Lanaido; and Limor Lev, the CEO of Ya'adim Latzafon, and a representative of the Rashi Foundation.
Guests joined the ceremony from across Haifa, including past Hillel president Avram Infeld; representatives from the Technion; the University of Haifa; Gordon College; Wizo College; representatives from the Haifa Municipality and from the Haifa-Boston Connection; staff from the Chais Family Foundation; the Haifa Hillel staff and many active Haifa Hillel students.
To watch the ceremony online, click: http://www.real-tech.co.il/hillel/index.html (In the open window, click User Name: hillel; Password: haifa)
For more news like this and up-to-date briefs about Jewish campus life, subscribe to our free eNewsletter Hillel Campus Report.