Hillel's change of scenery to cost $15M


Rutgers Hillel held a meeting yesterday to discuss the organization's move to a new, more spacious building, to be built on the plot of land where the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity formerly resided.

Rutgers Hillel Executive Director Andrew Getraer tossed around some ideas about what might be included in the interior.

"This will be the beginning of an ongoing conversation with students," Getraer said. "We want to design it right, so we need student input."

The current building does not meet the space demands of Hillel, as it has grown rapidly in the past six or seven years since the organization moved to the College Avenue campus, said Hillel board President Avi Smolen, a Rutgers College junior. Hillel used to be located on Douglass campus.

"We got so many people involved, we're bursting," he said.

Most Hillel organizations around the country that serve more than 2,000 students have new buildings. The University is the last to receive a new Hillel building, and its Jewish student population numbers around 5,000, Smolen said.

The new Hillel building will cost around $15 million to build, and Getraer said they are planning to raise three-fourths of the cost before starting construction to avoid getting into debt. They have raised $5 million so far.

They plan to raise money by asking generous philanthropist to donate, as well as getting parents and alumni excited and involved in the project. Students were asked to get involved in the effort.

"The greatest ambassadors and spokespeople are you, students who have gotten something out of this institution," Getraer said.

The building will be spacious, with three floors resembling the attractive, glass and brick Hillel buildings at University of Pennsylvania and Boston University.

"It's not like we're taking the dilapidated Fiji house and sticking a Hillel in it," Getraer said.

Hillel also is aiming to create flexible places in the building that could serve multiple functions, such as a prayer space or a seminar room, Getraer said. That way, things can be rearranged in the future as the needs and demands of students change over time. There also may be an outdoor pavilion to hold barbeques, the Sukkot holiday and other events.

In addition to more space, Getraer said they might include a kosher café. Another idea they were playing around with was a full dining service for students wanting to keep kosher, but Getraer doubts this will come to fruition.

"It's a really expensive thing to run a dining hall, and you guys pay enough for Brower," he said.

He also said the Les Turchin Chabad House on the College Avenue campus has a kosher dining service as well.

Getraer said they're also thinking about creating an Israeli center, as many students involved in Hillel end up traveling there, and they have a lot of Israeli materials with no place to put them in the current building.

Getraer also said although the building will be spacious, they want to leave little nooks and crannies sprinkled around for a more intimate Hillel experience.

"This building is warm and homey and cozy and nice and totally inadequate, "Getraer said. "But moving to a large place is jarring. It can be institutional."

Hillel has become a large organization because students initiate different events, clubs and groups, Education Coordinator Joshua Reback said, a Rutgers College junior.

"It's not a small group with limited resources," he said. "It's several groups all bottled up into one thing."

Due to its size and variety, Hillel is only constructed by physical boundaries.

"What restrains what it can do is it's facility," he said, which the new roomy building can fix.

If everything goes smoothly, Getraer said he expects the building will be complete in the spring of 2010.


Michelle Walbaum

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