Penn State Hillel has journeyed a long road to build a hub for the university’s Jewish community, and it plans to take another step forward in the near future.
The organization recently promoted construction for a $15 million, 26,000-square-foot building to begin “soon” at the corner of South Garner Street and East Beaver Avenue in downtown State College. The price tag includes an endowment to support the facility’s operational costs.
The project, Penn State Hillel Executive Director Aaron Kaufman said, does not yet have a groundbreaking date.
“We are extraordinarily grateful to the many donors, alumni, parents and friends, who have contributed millions of dollars so far, and we are working hard to raise the total amount needed for the project,” Kaufman said. “Among the naming opportunities still available is the name for the building itself.”
He also said construction will take years to complete.
“The building will provide a home for the estimated 5,000 Jewish students on campus,” he said. “While the staff and students at Penn State Hillel already do an exceptional job of engaging approximately half of the Jewish students on campus through Jewish life programming, leadership development opportunities, peer-to-peer engagement experiences, this building will open the doors to a greater community we do not regularly see.”
The organization envisions the facility will serve as a focal point of Jewish identity, expression and life throughout campus.
We have actually grown dramatically in the last two years, nearly tripling the number of students we reach.
Aaron Kaufman, executive director of Penn State Hillel
Penn State Hillel took direction from its students to build what they wanted.
“We've run numerous focus groups with Jewish students across campus to learn what they are looking for and how they would utilize the building as well as to gain feedback on our early designs and even which furniture styles and colors to use,” Kaufman said.
The building will include features like a kosher deli, a rooftop lounge, an organic rooftop garden, group and private study spaces, a multimedia and indoor game room and collaborative office space.
“Judaism is an incredibly rich and varied tradition, and many Jewish students have not yet had the opportunities to find its relevance in their lives,” Kaufman said. “This is where we come in. We have actually grown dramatically in the last two years, nearly tripling the number of students we reach and are now one of the most innovative and dynamic Hillels in the country.”