Jewish students at Stanford University can now relive their summer camp experience on campus. The newly opened Harold and Libby Ziff Center, totaling more than 13,000 square feet of space, features an octagon-shaped Gaga Pit. Gaga is a version of “dodge ball” that is played at some Jewish summer camps and is a highlight feature of Camp Kesem, a Hillel-sponsored summer camp that involves Stanford students from all backgrounds.
The Hillel Gaga Pit at Stanford University.
The idea for a Gaga Pit – an octagonal wood structure – was student inspired. Hillel at Stanford will be the only Hillel with a permanent Gaga Pit on its site.
“In addition to providing dynamic, meaningful Jewish experiences of many kinds, which is our core purpose, we want the Ziff Center to be a home away from home, and a place of fun, stress-relief for students, and community building for Jewish students and for the larger Stanford
campus community,” said Adina Danzig, Executive Director of Hillel at Stanford. “Between the meditative, inspiring stained glass in the beautiful prayer space, the new café, and creating a place to kick a ball around, I think we’re on our way.”
And then there were two.
The Ziff Center officially opened on Sunday, April 13, in time for the spring quarter. The new facility comprises two neighboring buildings, the Koret Pavilion, which is newly constructed, and the Taube Hillel House, a historic Stanford University building built in 1899. The Ziff Center is a modern facility that features state-of-the-art audio-visual technology, a dining hall, a lounge, a student office, meeting space and a prayer space. Certain rooms may also be reserved for student group meetings, a cappella and dance group rehearsals, lectures, classes, and events.
“Even though this is a Hillel building, it is for everyone on campus,” said Jonathan Kass ’10, president of the Jewish Student Association (JSA). “The JSA is working really hard to partner with all sorts of groups to host events in the new space. We're really excited to have the space for our own programming needs as well as any other group's.”
Stanford students are particularly excited about the KoPa Café, located inside the Koret Pavilion, which is a new self-service beverage and snack bar. All items cost students just $1.00 and the KoPa Café operates on the honor system.
Throughout the month of April, Stanford Hillel has been hosting events to promote the new Ziff Center. A few highlights have been an Open Mic Night, a lecture featuring prominent author, Anita Diamant and a "Bar Mitzvah" themed party for graduate students which was co-hosted by the Jewish Law Students Association on campus.
At Sunday's ribbon-cutting and mezuzah-hanging celebration, Hillel debuted a student-made film, “The History of Jewish Life at Stanford” that chronicles Jewish life on campus starting in 1935.
The Hillel Windows.
A unique set of stained glass windows, dubbed "The Hillel Windows," were also revealed along with a beautiful wood inlay ark created by students and local artists. Avraham Infeld, president emeritus of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, delivered the keynote address.
The History of Hillel at Stanford
Hillel at Stanford was formally established in the late 1950s. In the 1970's, Hillel was housed on campus in the Old Union Clubhouse. The Taube Hillel House at 565 Mayfield Avenue, fondly known for years as the historic Dunn-Bacon House, was first constructed in 1899 in the Greek revival style. For the first half of the 1900s it was the home of the late Harriett and Orrin Dunn, and then was the residence of the beloved Stanford couple, Professor Harold and Rosamond Bacon. Stanford ultimately acquired the property in 1998 and granted Hillel rights to enter into a 51-year lease in 2000.
In 2005, Hillel at Stanford began work on the Ziff Center. Real estate developer and Stanford alumnus John Arrillaga '60, led both the careful renovation of the Taube Hillel House and the Koret Pavilion as well as the construction of the new facility. With a full-time staff of nine, Hillel at Stanford University partners with a dozen Jewish student groups to support 300 student and community programs every school year.