The Marcus Hillel Center held a commemorative program on Sunday to celebrate the dedication of the new center, which first opened its doors in February but was not fully completed until four weeks ago.
The event, which was packed with people from around the Atlanta area, included speeches, songs and an honoring of the winners of Campus Superstar. University President James W. Wagner and Home Depot cofounder Bernie Marcus also spoke at the event. Andra London, an Emory alumna, and Emory’s Jewish a cappella group - Kol HaNesher performed.
One-third of the Emory student body identifies itself as Jewish. But before the opening of the new center, Jewish students convened in rooms in White Hall, said Dorothy Abrams, copresident of the Hillel at Emory Student Board.
“[The new center] creates a home for Jews on campus,” Abrams said.
The new center provides a 10,500 square feet space — open to the public Monday through Friday — with meeting rooms, wireless internet, offices, big-screen television and plenty of amenities that welcome students to eat at its authentic kosher restaurant Good Friends Grill, study or simply gather together, said Michael Rabkin, director of the Hillel at Emory University.
Marcus, who found out about the project five years ago, said he wanted “to build a refuge for Jewish students.”
The center is named after Marcus and his wife Billi for their contribution. The Marcus Foundation donated $3 million. The remainder of the $9.2 million campaign was donated by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Community Capital Campaign and hundreds of individual donors, such as Emory alumni, parents and faculty, Rabkin said. He added that the money raised includes an endowment for building expenses.
Abrams said she believes the new center will help build involvement in Hillel among the student body.
Hillel member Charlie Punia said that having the center “brought me into Hillel more.”
Abrams said that though the groundbreaking for the center was in May 2008 and the doors first opened in the spring, the commemorative program was not held until now for a number of reasons. Not only was the construction completed only recently, she said, Sukkot, the celebration of God’s protection of the Jewish people, is from Sept. 23 to Sept. 29.
“This is a celebration of moving from a temporary to permanent home,” Abrams stated.
Hillel hosts events throughout the year, such as Bagel Brunch, taking freshman to baseball games, white water rafting for the upperclassmen, Friday night services and bimonthly Friday dinners. With the opening of the new center, Hillel plans to expand its programming.
“There are more options for creative programming that [we] have not had before,” Abrams said.
Nine or ten different Jewish groups are involved with Hillel, and the group also collaborates with the Muslim Student Association for Children of Abraham, a program to bring students from the two groups together. Non-Jewish students also attend the Hillel events.
“Hillel does a great job of giving opportunities to every degree of religiousness,” Kaminsky said.
— Contact Sonal Purohit.