Campus News

September 22, 2010

Marcus Hillel Center dedicated to Jewish life on campus

The Emory campus Hillel has a new home. Long a center for Jewish activity, the new Marcus Hillel Center offers more than a gathering place for social occasions and Shabbat services for Emory’s 2,000 Jewish students. The new facility, at 735 Gatewood Road, has space for meetings, for study and relaxation, and room to celebrate holidays, meet people and even eat, thanks to Goodfriend’s Grill at Ray’s Bistro.

The center has been planned for several years, first on the organization’s old site across the street. When the University wanted that land for another use, it initiated a “land swap” and Hillel reconfigured its plans. With the financial support of philanthropists Bernie and Billi Marcus and the Marcus Foundation, the Center is now ready to be dedicated to the students and the community. 

According to Wayne Silverman, executive director of Hillels of Georgia, which oversees Hillel activities on Georgia’s college campuses, Friday night Shabbat services usually draw 70-90 students, and a typical week sees about 250 people visiting the Marcus Center.  Silverman noted that it is exciting to see not just students, but faculty, staff and community members taking advantage of the Hillel Center’s new contemporary home.  Worship services are offered for Orthodox, Conservative and Reform weekly and for the High Holy Days.

The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, whose help over the years has been integral to the growth of Hillel, says, "This is a dream come true for Emory. Jewish Life has been strong at Emory for over 50 years, and the community has needed a home,” she says. “The contributions that have made this come true will never be forgotten. Emory is blessed to have the Marcus Hillel Center."

“Having the new building makes everything feel different,” says Rabbi Vicki Armour-Hileman, associate dean of religious life and chaplain at Emory. “We have a new sense of ‘home’ it is not possible to have without a space you can call your own, a place where Jewish life can flourish.” 

Goodfriend’s kosher café, a draw for observant Jews on campus and throughout the neighborhood, offers both milk and meat menus under kosher supervision. It was made possible by a gift from the University and Emory researcher Raymond Schinazi.  

The dedication ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 26 will feature President Jim Wagner, Bernie Marcus, chairman of the Marcus Foundation and Wayne L. Firestone, International President of Hillel foundation. A reception and “The Hillel Experience” will follow. During that time, guests can learn about Hillel and about Jewish life on campus from students stationed throughout the building. They can also participate in a moderated conversation with Firestone entitled, “What’s in Your Jewish Future? How Students Can Transform our Jewish Community.”

Dorothy Abrams, co-president of Hillel of Emory’s Student Board, says that Hillel offered her a chance to fill her Jewish needs. She says students get attracted religiously and socially, and her goal is to keep them engaged and religiously involved as upperclassmen. 

A commemorative book, offering supporters a chance to express congratulations on the completion of the project and thanks to the Marcuses and all who made this reality possible, will be available at the official dedication.

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