For some Hillel students at Temple University in Philadelphia, their building on North Broad Street is one that has been passed down through the generations. Their parents, for instance, know all about the oven's quirks from way back. The "elders" also recall when certain promises were made — that a new building for Hillel was going to be built for them "soon."
Fast-forward to 2007, when the dream of a new Hillel building has become a reality. With a several blows of a hammer and a few felled bricks, a new era of Jewish life was inaugurated on May 30 at Temple, as ground was broken for the Edward H. Rosen Center for Jewish Life.
Located at 15th and Norris streets in Philadelphia, the new structure will wind up costing more than $6.2 million, according to Marla Meyers, director of institutional advancement for Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. Currently, nearly $4 million has been raised through gift pledges and the sale of the old building, she added; the campaign is still actively in search of donors.
Hillel's new building is part of a $198 million investment in local neighborhoods by private investors, added Temple University president Ann Weaver Hart.
Rosen, whom the building is named for, is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and has been consistently involved with the city's Jewish community.
He's also been a trustee of the university, although he recently retired from the board.
Nearly a decade ago, he took an interest in Temple's Hillel and got to know students, said Meyers, "and really took the organization under his wing."
Rosen's dedication "doesn't come from a place of ego," added Alan Slifka; his actions are "symbolic of who he is and what he's done for the community." Slifka gave the dedicating gift for the building, and chose to name it after Rosen, a good friend, whom he'd met during their years together at Yale University.
Jewish ties to Temple have existed for years. As immigrants poured into Philadelphia, Hart explained, many sent their children to the college. In the 1950s and '60s, she attested, some 30 percent of students were Jewish.
And though the population has declined in past decades, the campus has seen a resurgence in the number of Jewish students, she said, now up to about 2,200.
"This center will help us expand that Jewish presence at Temple," said Hart.
For Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, the event was especially poignant, as he's the parent of a Temple student: "This is the beginning of the culmination of a very long dream."
The new building will weave together the Jewish community to the broader Temple University community, as well as to the surrounding neighborhoods.
The center will "allow us to have a building to be proud of," said Sarah Feinberg, a Temple senior. "This is something that we'll really have for ourselves for generations to come."