September 19, 2019 | 47° F

Rutgers Hillel invites students to build giant lego model of Jerusalem

In 2 hours, participants built a full model of the Old City

Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

A blueprint of Jerusalem spread across Hillel's floor for students to work on their interpretations of famous buildings.

Rutgers Hillel built Old City, Jerusalem from Legos this past Wednesday. The miniature replica presented the city’s architecture with guided tours for students who have yet to visit.

In just under 2 hours, members of Hillel built some of the cities' most historic buildings including the Tower of David, the Beit HaMikdash and the entirety of the Western Wall that circumferences the city.

Construction was led by the architect for Building Blocks Workshops, Stephen Schwartz. His organization teaches the vision of architecture through large group model building, according to their site.

After discovering that children were capable of understanding zoning rules, Schwartz made use of Legos to teach families the history of famous architecture, he said. With a blueprint of Jerusalem and 2 hours to build, construction of the old city was underway.

“It’s going very quickly for this small group,” Schwartz said. “This is a team group, normally we have 150 people working at one time, the place is crazy.”

The event is one of many activities Hillel used to help students learn more about Judaism and the many countries which occupy the religion, said Segev Kanik, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. The group felt this would be a fun and inexpensive way to teach students about the Holy City.

“My main goal is to make it feel more similar, more familiar to everyone,” he said.

Many of the students involved in Hillel take part in a gap year away from school, Kanik said. These can last upward of a year and in many instances take students into Jerusalem for community outreach or programs of study. 

As a result, the building process helped many students who have already visited to remember the city's layout, while giving those who have not a chance to see some of what the city has to offer.

“Most of the stuff is what you would see in our natural area, I wouldn’t recognize every single block here,” he said. “I can tell you past the Western Wall up a little bit, you can visit it in Jerusalem, is Holy Bagel.”

Kanik said Hillel hosts students from all different cultural backgrounds. As Judaism has undergone Americanization over the years, students from countries like Mexico and Russia have found their way into the organization.

Hillel houses groups from different denominations and cultural backgrounds under an umbrella, which celebrates Judaism while allowing groups their space to observe their faith.

Many of the students in Hillel were not born in Jerusalem but have visited at least once before, said Kanik. Hillel encourages students to take part in Birthright, a program which offers trips to Jerusalem for all students.

Aviv Ayash is a fellow from the Jewish Agency Israel at Rutgers Hillel. He is in charge of organizing different opportunities to educate students about Jerusalem and Israel through group activities.

“I think this is how students can feel more connected to Jerusalem or Israel in general,” he said.

Much of the conflict surrounding Israel and Palestine is limited to talk of war and ignores the culture which the city is known for, Ayash said. Events like this look to draw interested students into learning more about the country and hopefully visiting some day.

At this moment the organization has a trip of 25 students planned to depart for Israel this winter, Ayash said. The group is eager to hear new ideas for how students want to see Israel on campus upon their return.

The inclusion of non-Jewish students into the program further educates the public of Israel’s role in the collective of cultures on campus despite misinformation about the country at this time, Ayash said.

“Israel is more than the conflict. (Students) have a space here where they can bring their Jewish identity or non-Jewish friends here and educate them more about Israel and their religion,” he said. 

Christian Zapata

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