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Hillel Buildings Sprout All Over

by Hillel News |Apr 07, 2011|Comments
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University of Alabama Hillel dedicates its Bloom Hillel Student Center.

It's appropriate that the new Hillel building at the University of Alabama is the Bloom Hillel Student Center because Hillel facilities are blossoming this spring at Tulane University, the University of Virginia, and Muhlenberg College. Penn State Hillel also broke ground for a new home.

University of Alabama

In Tuscaloosa, the Bloom Hillel Student Center recently opened its doors after four years of planning and construction. "It is exciting to have a place large enough for the growing number of students who come to our Shabbat dinners and other events," says Hillel's program director Kathy Merrell. "We also envision that this will attract even more Jewish students to UA, by showing them that we not only have a beautiful new building, but also a strong sense of community."

"In 2007, we had a little over 170 Jewish students on this campus and now we have grown to more than 700," adds Pam Parker, UA's vice president for advancement. "It is my hope that with this new home, that number will continue to grow."

The Bloom Hillel Student Center takes its place on the "God Quad," the unofficial name for the area of campus where the Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic and Baptist student centers are located.

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University of Virginia

The Brody Jewish Center at the University of Virginia is the new home for Jewish students at Mr. Jefferson's university in Charlottesville. The Brody Jewish Center is quickly becoming the focal point of Jewish life on campus, replacing a facility originally built in 1914 as a private home. The expanded facility features a dining room that comfortably seats 180 students, study and lounge space for students and a new expanded kitchen, as well as a chapel, new offices and restrooms.

Muhlenberg College

The dedication of a new Hillel building at Muhlenberg College is the capstone of this campus's meteoric rise as one of the hottest destination schools for Jewish students on the East Coast. "In what is being called a testament to word of mouth in the Jewish community, approximately 34 percent of Muhlenberg College's 2,200 students are Jewish. And the biggest gains have come in the past five years or so," reports the Associated Press.

"What makes us stand out is that we actually enjoy our diversity," said Randy Helm, the college's president, an Episcopalian. "Our close-knit community has embraced differences rather than pulling into its shell or fracturing along religious, ethnic or other lines."

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Tulane University

In a true testament to university/community partnership, Tulane Hillel's new building, The Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life, represents a commitment to create a facility that celebrates the growth of Jewish student life in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The building not only houses Hillel's offices and meeting rooms, it provides classroom space as an integral part of the university.

"We've never had our own space to hold functions," says Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Yonah Schiller. "Now Hillel is going into a whole new area."

Schiller said the building was created in the theme of "tzelem elokim," the concept that all people are created in God's image. He said the new building will serve as a place where people can maximize their ability to be individuals, and at the same time be a part of a community. That community, however, will reach beyond Jewish students at Tulane.

"We want people to feel that they can come into the building without being a card-carrying member of Hillel," Schiller said.

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Penn State University

If all goes as planned, Penn State Hillel will someday soon leave its 1,400-square-foot space in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center on the Penn State campus for a 20,000-square-foot facility in the town of State College. Hillel Executive Director Aaron Kaufman explains that the building will accommodate the growing number of Jewish students participating on Jewish life on campus. When he arrived at Penn State four years ago, the Hillel had 20 to 30 students for Shabbat every week. That figure has risen to 100, as well as 400 for services and 300 for its Passover Seder.

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