UA Hillel expands facilities to fit growing population

UA Hillel expands facilities to fit growing population

CW File

The UA Jewish population on campus is expanding, so the on-campus resources like the Bloom Hillel facility are doing the same.

“We barely have enough room for the amount of people we currently have coming on a weekly basis,” said Parker Jacobs, a junior majoring in math and finance. “The expansion will create a lot more comfort.”

Construction on the new Bloom Hillel facility began on Feb. 4, and the project is scheduled to finish in August. The expansion will increase the size of the facility by 50 percent, increasing capacity from 140 to 250. Student Board President of Hillel Benjamin Greenberg said the expansion will make space for offices, a conference room for the board of trustees, and storage. 

According to the Hillel’s website, approximately, 900 students at The University of Alabama have identified themselves as Jewish, and they expect that number to double in the next 10 years. 

“Our growth has really mirrored the University’s growth,” said Star Bloom, co-chair of the Bloom Hillel Board of Trustees, in a press release. 

Jacobs said every year the dinners get bigger, and there is new excitement among non-students, potential donors and alumni who want to see where their money would go if they donate.

Greenberg said meal attendance has grown from 70-80 to 90-100 people per meal. 

“Over the past 5-6 years since we’ve had our director, Lisa, definitely the growth has increased a lot more than it did in the past,” Greenberg said.

Steven Carini, a junior majoring in aerospace engineering, said he thinks the growth of Hillel comes from multiple Jewish organizations on campus making themselves more known.

"I'm really excited for [the expansion],” Carini said. “I go to Hillel pretty frequently, especially on Friday nights, and a lot of times we don't have the space.”

Rabbi Kussi Lipsker came to the University in August 2015 to help establish a new branch of Chabad, another Jewish organization, on campus. Lipsker said they had their biggest freshman class this year, and the numbers are growing rapidly. 

“Expansion is a very exciting time,” Lipsker said. “It can attract more students, and across the board it's highly beneficial."

Lipsker said the University should keep expanding student life, and every Jewish student should be aware of the programs. He said Chabad on campus can be a student’s home away from home.

Greenberg said Hillel is special because it provides diversity to the campus, and it’s a way to draw a minority that may not come to a southern school.

There are not only more Jewish students coming to Hillel but non-Jewish students as well. 

“We are an all encompassing organization,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs said Zeta Beta Tau, a Jewish fraternity, disassociated from Judaism in 1982, and all fraternity brothers, including those who are not a Jewish, come to dinners every Friday.

“I’m so pleased to see our students finding a home and a place to belong and connect with other students here, so I’m especially excited for the University to be involved with the expansion of Bloom Hillel,” UA President Stuart R. Bell said in a press release. 

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