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New Hillel to Rise at Temple University

February 1, 2007 By:
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Artist's rendering of a brand-new facility for Jewish students
Even before the $12 million, 35,000-square-foot Steinhardt Hall had officially opened more than three years ago on the University of Pennsylvania campus -- replacing a cramped, outdated brick structure -- Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, declared that the next big building project would happen on the other side of the Schuylkill, at North Philadelphia's Temple University.

And so, at a time when Temple appears to be on the rise academically, shifting from a commuter school to one with a growing campus life, it looks as if Alpert's goal is within reach.

Architectural plans and models for the new, $5 million, 13,000-square-foot Edward H. Rosen Center for Jewish Life were unveiled last week at a private gathering for supporters, held at Rosen's Bryn Mawr home. A former member of Temple University's board, Rosen recalled that his longtime friend, financier Alan Slifka, had offered to honor him with a "naming gift" at Temple. Rosen accepted -- and chose to have his name attached to a new Hillel building.

So far, officials have raised roughly $3.7 million out of an overall goal of $6 million, which would include additional funds for a building endowment.

Groundbreaking is expected to take place this spring, and Alpert said he's hopeful that the building will open by fall 2008.

"We expect the number of Jewish students at Temple to increase tremendously in the next few years," Alpert told a group of the project's supporters inside Rosen's book-lined apartment. He added that, at present, about 9,000 undergraduates reside on campus, at least 600 of whom are Jews.

The building will be situated on the corner of 15th and Norris streets, one block west of North Broad Street and catty-corner to the university's outdoor athletic fields, which officials stressed is a well-lit area in a neighborhood undergoing renovation.

The building -- designed by Jamie Wyper, the architect of Steinhardt Hall -- plans to utilize glass for much of structure's exterior, and emphasize open spaces in the interior. Wyper said that it will have a basement, three floors, and a roof deck -- with views of Center City -- that could accommodate a sukkah.

Unlike Steinhardt Hall, the Rosen building will not have a kosher dining facility for daily usage, but it will maintain a cafe and a kosher kitchen that could be used for special events, according to Wyper.

The structure will replace the current North Broad Street headquarters that nearly everyone at the event called inadequate for the wide array of Jewish programming taking place at Temple.

"It's like a relic of the Civil War," burst forth Rosen, himself a graduate of Yale University. "The real leadership of the Jewish community is behind this project."

In addition to serving the students at Temple, the center will also be the home of Hillel in Philadelphia, which helps coordinate Jewish-student activities for numerous area campuses, both in the city and the suburbs, though not at Penn.

Sara Fischer, who oversees Hillel in Philadelphia, said that even juniors and seniors, who will have graduated by the time the project's completed, are looking forward to the new building.

"The students are really excited about it. They are like, 'Why isn't it here already,' " said Fischer, who added that she can't wait for a much-improved and well-lit office.

In fact, she noted cheerfully, she's absolutely "desperate for the building."

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