Penn State Hillel is a constantly growing organization on campus, which aims to create new resources not just for its own members, but for the entire community. For this very reason, the organization plans to build the first kosher cafe in State College.
The building will include amenities such as a game room, roof top garden terrace, and a work space open to all visitors. The group originally met up at the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, but members and visitors will have a more central location at the upcoming venue downtown at the corner of Beaver Avenue and Garner Street. Although Hillel is a Jewish organization, anyone is welcome to see what the new building will have to offer.
Hillel has been planning the construction of the 26,000-square-foot office for the past year, and the installment will cost approximately $15 million. The building will host student group meetings, events, holiday programming, and other activities. The new space will also make kosher food more widely available on campus. Hillel hopes the 5,000 Penn State Jewish students and faculty members will benefit from the new cultural center, as well as the additional resources it will provide.
“Community is a central component of Jewish identity and expression, and a new home for Hillel creates that focal point,” director of community engagement Hannah Giterman said. “The Hillel building needs to be the nerve center for Jewish life — coordinating the extended reach of Hillel’s staff and student leaders across campus, enabling us to meet Jewish students where they are, and bring them the resources and opportunities they need to make Judaism an enduring part of their lives after college.”
According to Giterman, Hillel initially facilitated the beginning of the building process by reaching out to professionals in the industry and working on designs. Hillel ran focus groups in New York City, Washington D.C., and various communities in Pennsylvania. The group collaborated with numerous social entrepreneurs, Jewish educators, national funders, and young Jewish leaders in order to develop the best plan possible.
“Our organization is data-driven innovation, so we approach everything we do with an enterprising and innovative spirit backed by data and measurement — our plans for the building are no exception,” Giterman said.
Hillel hopes the new building will be a beneficial addition to the club that provides students with the space needed to hang out, get work done, and hold important events. The organization aims to create an open space in which members of the community can come together for any type of cause. As the organization’s primary building, Hillel’s main goal is for members to enjoy the space, as well as come to the building whenever they can.
“We want each space’s primary function to be attractive, relevant and utilized every day, and that can be adapted for Shabbat and other special occasions,” Giterman said.