Jewish students at the University of Florida have a new "home away from home" on campus with the addition of University of Florida Hillel's Lipoff Hall. Open since October, Lipoff Hall was officially dedicated on January 30 with a community-wide celebration that lasted the entire weekend.
The 23,000-square-foot facility, named for lay leader Norman Lipoff, who chaired University of Florida Hillel's capital campaign, features an outdoor caf, sports bar, espresso bar, conference and meeting rooms, game rooms and space for students to watch movies, listen to music and take exercise classes. Free wireless Internet access attracts students, as does the new full kosher dining plan, the only one available south of Maryland and east of California. Two custom-built arks and four stained-glass windows create a beautiful atmosphere for Shabbat and holiday services.
The festivities included Shabbat services Friday and Saturday, traditional Israeli and Jewish food, and music. The dedication took place on Sunday along with a bagel brunch, building tours and remarks by Hillel President Avraham Infeld and University of Florida President J. Bernard Machen.
"I've attended many ground-breakings and dedications, but this Hillel is special," Machen said. "It has a rich history and an even brighter future."
Infeld reminded students that their enthusiasm for Jewish life at the University of Florida should not be limited to Lipoff Hall, however.
"It's not only what happens within this building," Infeld said. "It's the message that emanates for this building that will leave a resounding message on this campus."
Lipoff Hall is already proving popular with students, whether they're coming for text study, Jewish yoga or movie night. Executive Director Keith Dvorchik has noticed an increase in attendance at Shabbat services and dinner as well.
"Every time I walk out of my office, I see a new group of students in the building," he said. "Many of them we haven't seen before. It's fantastic."