Hillel plans to construct new house at FAU
By: Kelly Landy
Jewish Journal Staff Writer
"We are about to make the best home for Hillel students anywhere in the country," said Betty Zinman, vice chairperson of Florida Atlantic University Foundation.
The Mildred & Abner Levine and Ruth & Saul Weinberger Jewish Life Center at FAU is what Zinman referred to as she spoke to nearly 100 guests in attendance at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach County's luncheon. The Feb. 3 event, in the university's Live Oak Pavilllion in Boca Raton, was designed to celebrate the Jewish renaissance on campus.
This summer Hillel will break ground on the five-story, 4,200 square foot building that will house an all-night study area, a computer lab and an extension of the current library at FAU, said Katy Boyask, Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach County's Jewish student life coordinator for graduate programs. The building is scheduled to be completed during the summer of 2005.
"It is in a central location, which is the main key," said Marrin Rothstein, Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach County's Katz Jewish Campus Service Corps fellow.
The Hillel house will include office space for the director and campus rabbi as well as a library, kitchen, Starbucks-style area, pavilion to host events and an Israel resource center, Rothstein said.
"Ensuring the significant continuation of the survival of the Jewish people is why Federation leaders and rabbis are in attendance today," said Avraham Infeld, interim president and director of Hillel, as he spoke to the crowd.
Edgar Bronfman, chairman of Hillel's International board of governors, echoed similar sentiments.
"Hillel is close to my heart because I see what it does for young people," Bronfman said "My brother created the birthright israel program. Birthright is one of those great concepts that work."
Birthright israel believes that it is every Jewish person's birthright to visit Israel. Birthright israel provides the gift of the trip to all eligible participants – Jewish adults ages 18-26 – who have not been on a educational, peer trip to Israel. To date, more than 48,000 participants took advantage of the program.
As part of the original concept, birthright israel trips would be paid for by philanthropists, the Israeli government and the federation, said Bronfman, who resides in New York.
"The problem is the Israeli government had to cut way back, but Israel has to realize how important the American Jewish community is [to the country] and how important birthright is to the American Jewish community," Bronfman said. "If I can do nothing more than leave you with a message of Jewish pride – that's what's important."
Before the main course, a video presentation displayed students sharing their Hillel experiences ranging from the Death by Cheesecake event at The Cheesecake Factory in Boca Raton to building a sukkah for 80 people and hosting Shabbat dinners.
"It's all about linking one Jew to another Jew," said one student on the video, which ended much like the 'I am Tiger Woods' Nike campaign as students on the Hillel video said, "I am Jewish Renaissance."
"This has been an absolutely inspiring, exciting get together to learn about the activities that are going on in our community," said Gary Siepser, president of United Jewish Community of Broward County. "It's proof of the vitality of Jewish campus life and the work of Hillel and birthright israel."
Israeli-born Asaf Ben-Shoshan, who left the Jewish homeland at age 3, hosts pro-Israeli events through the group Students for Israel on the FAU campus.
"We work with Hillel on a regular basis," said Ben-Shoshan, who resides in Sunrise and is a senior at FAU majoring in psychology.
Brandey Parker, president of Hillel's student board at FAU, told the crowd her No. 1 goal as president is "to reach and affect the lives of all the Jewish students on campus."
"We truly created a family for students away from home," she said.
For more information, visit www.hillelcenter.org.