By Grace Kamin

For Mitzpeh


7505 Yale Ave, the location of the new Hillel building (Grace Kamin/Mitzpeh)

Hillel has remained in the same building at this university since the 1980’s, but soon enough, they will be moving into their new home on Yale Avenue. The project has been delayed several times but construction is set to begin next spring. Maryland Hillel is a center for Jewish life on campus, currently located on Mowatt Lane near south campus. 

“The actual date we can officially begin construction will be dictated in part by when our plans are approved and permits issued [by the City of College Park and planning boards],” said Shawn Laing, Director of Finance and Operations at Hillel. “Our ground-breaking ceremony will hopefully happen in the late fall [2022], that we should be able to confirm this summer.”

Construction is scheduled to take place in Spring 2023, and Hillel expects the building to be ready by Fall 2024.

“The delay is due to a number of factors,” Laing said. “COVID put things to a halt for a short time and that gave us the ability to work with students, lay leadership and new vendors to implement design ideas that came about during some of these brainstorming sessions.” 

According to Laing, the new Hillel building will be the same size as originally planned but will have a reconfigured design to help meet the needs of students. It will be located at 7505 Yale Ave behind the Landmark apartment building, about a 15-minute walk from the current building. Coincidentally, this was the location of the original Maryland Hillel building in the 1940’s. 

Hillel’s Israel Engagement Associate, Renata Schaffer, thinks this location will be beneficial for the organization. “I think it’ll be much easier to have general engagement and more passive events because the location is much more convenient to a wider population,” said Schaffer. “Our current location is on the outskirts of campus and the new location is centrally placed off-campus to hit the Greek and upperclassmen communities. This will also allow for Hillel to become a more welcoming space for all Jewish students instead of a primarily Orthodox community.”

The funding for the building has been mostly through Hillel’s Capital Campaign and some grant funding as well as an anonymous donor. According to their campaign website, they had raised $12 million by March 2020 with a goal of $20 million by March 2022. 

In the meantime, Hillel continues to make do in their current 17,000-square foot space. “The delay has not affected us too much, we do juggle space, which is sometimes an issue, but we make it work,” said Laing.

The new building will be nearly 40,000 square feet and will include multipurpose rooms, a cafe and a dining hall among other features. With 6,500 Jewish students on campus, according to Hillel’s website, the extra space is much needed. 

Springboard Social Justice Fellow Olivia Hazlett has been on a fellowship at Hillel for two years, and is eager for the move. “I look most forward to having a larger programming space for our activities, so that we can host multiple events simultaneously in our building,” said Hazlett. 

“I think this move is additionally going to be beneficial in Hillel’s ability to engage with the Greek population and upperclassmen. I think this move materializes the growth that we’ve been experiencing as a community for the past decade or so and is really something for both staff and students to be proud of and excited to utilize,” she added.


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