Come fall semester of 2021, Jewish students at Pennsylvania State University will have a new home.
Construction has begun on Penn State Hillel’s first permanent facility, which will occupy two floors of a new mixed-use building that will also feature student housing and retail spaces.
The estimated 4,000 Jewish undergraduates at the school will be able to use the new 18,000-square-foot space to study, meet, hold events, host expanded and innovative Shabbat and holiday programming and more.
“Hillel gives an abundance of incredible opportunities and experiences to a variety of different students so I can’t wait to see how that grows in a new, innovative space,” said Emilie Naidoff, Penn State Hillel’s current student president, in a press release. “I will miss not being here to see the new facility open its doors, and I can’t wait to visit and see all the possibilities the new building brings to reality.”
Executive Director Aaron Kaufman is excited to provide a home for the quickly growing Jewish student population.
Until the space opens, Jewish students will continue to participate in Hillel events at the campus’ multifaith Pasquerilla Spiritual Center. Kaufman noted that Hillel will still have a partnership with the center and the university.
They are not moving out but rather expanding, he emphasized.
“Certainly, we want students to feel this is a home for them,” Kaufman said, be it a space for them to come study or meet new people or hang out with the staff. “We very much take a holistic approach to our work with students. It will give a physical sense for students and also for alumni to what has already become a reality, which is Jewish life has arrived in a major way at Penn State. … We now have a Hillel that is going to be positioned to meet the needs of those students.”
He said they are focused on making the space as flexible and adaptable as they can as they move forward with the intended plans, with a strong emphasis on collaboration and partnership between staff and students.
The adaptability factor plays a role as Kaufman said they are thinking about what the organization will look like even three years from now when the building is slated to open.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity to envision what the organization will become,” he enthused.
Having a specific space for the Jewish community will tend to a key value of Judaism, Kaufman added — community itself.
As Penn State Hillel has grown, it has been one of the few organizations not to have its own Hillel space like other college campuses.
It also relates to the idea of providing a service for the next generation of students, he added.
He hopes that “students are excited about what the growth and the new facility means in terms of their experience for Jewish life.”
[email protected]; 215-832-0740