New Hillel Jewish Cultural Center opens to UCSD students in fall 2022

UC San Diego students are expected to have access to a new Hillel Center branch, which is slated to open by fall 2022. The grand opening of the new location off Torrey Pines Road began on September 19 in the hope of providing the community with a new space to engage in a variety of services and activities related to Jewish culture.

The development of the Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center has been severely delayed over the past 20 years for a variety of factors, including lawsuits and environmental issues, as reported by La Jolla Light.

In an article published by The Times of San Diego in 2017, the continued delay came from various opponents who felt that building the center was out of place for what has been described as a predominantly residential area. Noise and parking issues, the size of the facility, and the centre’s ambiguity about its purpose are just some of the justifications given by opponents to the center, as noted in the article.

The change in the original size of the building, a more homogeneous aesthetic visual of the building, as well as the support of the Jewish leaders of the area were at the origin of the eventual approval of the building by the city council.

Hillel’s executive directors and associates Karen Parry and Lisa Motenko told The UCSD Guardian how a collaborative effort was the cause of the end of the 20-year battle.

“Since 2000, we’ve been working with the community and overcoming legal challenges to get here today,” said Parry and Motenko. “We thank the many members of the community and elected officials who came together to support our efforts. We are excited to now focus our efforts on the future, where we will serve UC San Diego students and continue to build relationships and alliances with the community.

Opening up the space means that intercultural learning and engagement can be facilitated between Jewish and non-Jewish individuals on campus. A spokesperson for UCSD told The Guardian that the center encourages connections between students.

“The Hillel Center, similar to the community centers on the UCSD campus, will be a place where students can assert their identity, feel welcome and share their culture with their peers,” the statement said. “We recognize that student success is multi-faceted and that connecting with peers goes a long way in personal growth. The new Hillel Center will serve as a catalyst for building lasting friendships and continuously learning from each other. “

To date, the UCSD campus does not currently offer a specific center for Jewish people. Students have access to multi-faith resources, such as the Intercultural Center, where students from various religious communities can come together in solidarity.

Parry and Motenko describe the Hillel Center as a resource for students to make closer connections between faith and education.

“Our talented professional staff serve as mentors and educators to provide students with valuable tools and opportunities to become Jewish leaders,” said Parry and Motenko. “Our diverse programming brings together students from all walks of life to forge deep and personal connections to Jewish life here and in Israel. We are deeply committed to inclusion and pluralistic Judaism.

The San Diego Hillel, which currently reaches 2,000 students at several San Diego-area colleges, has been in operation since 1992. According to its website, it is the only Jewish organization that engages with college-aged Jewish students. in the San Diego area which includes students at San Diego State University, California State University, San Marcos, and University of San Diego.

The UCSD organization’s Hillel Center currently offers various services such as Triton Jewish Leaders, a mentorship program known as Hillel freshmen, and a Jewish Learning Scholarship. The center also modified events to follow COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, including hosting online Shabbat celebrations between UCSD and SDSU students.

Although the center mainly focuses on Jewish opportunities and tradition, Parry and Motenko maintain that the center can add much more to the diversity of the campus.

“We hope it will be used by a range of multicultural, social and academic groups on campus and serve as a vehicle for building relationships in ways that enhance and celebrate the remarkable diversity of UCSD,” said Parry and Motenko . “Through meaningful programs and Jewish experiences, we hope this center will serve as a beacon for the whole community.

Until the physical construction of the space, students can register for information here. They are also encouraged to get involved with Hillel via the calendar of events located here.

Photo taken by Althea Tien for The UCSD Guardian

Images of projected Hillel Center designs courtesy of UCSD Hillel

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