Hillel to break ground on new 'Foundation'
Imagine a building that can accommodate more than 1,000 people with its own dining hall, a multipurpose room, library and several lounges on the College Avenue campus. Rutgers Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, is transforming this dream into a reality by saying goodbye to its current home on 93 College Ave. The brand new state-of-the-art Hillel Student Center will be located on 2 Bishop Pl., the location of the old Phi Gamma Delta FIJI fraternity home. At the present time, the Hillel building is leased from the Theological Seminary and because the Hillel does not own the building, there isn't much improvement that can be done to it, he said."Our current home is well located and very warm, but it is inadequate for the activities and programs that the Hillel runs," Rutgers Hillel Director Andrew Getraer said. "At times, we can get over 300 students a week, who we can't accommodate in our building. So we sometimes have to use the faculty room in Brower Commons or the Multipurpose Room in the Rutgers Student Center." The new Hillel Student Center will be completely privately funded, Getraer said. The overall cost is placed at $15 million, which includes costs for land, designing and constructing as well as maintenance of the building. A team of students, staff, alumni and architects designed the new facility, Getraer said. The contract to build the new Hillel was given to Kann Partners of Baltimore, Md., an architect firm that also designed the Hillel at Johns Hopkins University. The process of constructing the new Hillel center will begin by demolishing the Fiji house near the end of September, Getraer said. The planned construction site offers a 25,000 square-feet lot to build upon. "We spent a number of years searching for property that fits our needs, that is well located and offers easy access for students," Getraer said. "This is a substantial building, which will be a magnificent contribution to the Rutgers community." But not all students are excited about the move."I'm mixed on the issue. In one sense, the larger building will accommodate more students and foster a larger Jewish community on the campus," School of Engineering sophomore Ross Kleiman said. "However, I feel that the new location is not in a central location on Collage Avenue, making the Jewish presence less obvious." The new Hillel Student Center will include four floors and a dining hall overlooking the Raritan River that can accommodate about 400 people. There will also be a two-story atrium with a café serving kosher food that is open to all students, including both indoor and outdoor seating. "We've talked to the Hillels in Pennsylvania, Boston University, University of Maryland and University of Wisconsin," Getraer said. "We really learned from their experience and used it in the design of our new building."Other building features include a library offering English and Hebrew texts, small kitchens, office space for students and Hillel staff as well as a large multipurpose room, which can be used for dances, movies, holiday services and alumni weddings, Getraer said. The multipurpose room will be available to other parts of the University when not in use. "It would be great to have a Judaic library in the new Hillel equipped with Internet access and a Beit Midrash, or study hall," said Ryan Richstein, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "Larger, more comfortable lounges would encourage more interaction between individuals, and meeting rooms would better organize the various programs offered by Hillel and would support the meetings held by staff and student leaders."The University Jewish community currently includes about 5,000 members and is the fourth largest Jewish campus population in the country, according to the Hillel's Web site. "We do expect more students will come to the new Hillel Student Center," Getraer said. "Other Hillels that have built new facilities have seen a 30 percent increase in the population."
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