Groundbreaking changes for Hillel of Kent

Courtney Cook

Photo Courtesy of Hillel Jewish Student Center

Credit: Ron Soltys

Hillel of Kent will celebrate with friends and supporters the anticipated groundbreaking for the new Jewish student center located on Terrace Drive and Summit Street on Sept. 23.

“The building will reflect how Hillel as an organization wants to work with all students on campus,” said Jennifer Chestnut, director of Hillel at Kent. “The new facility is just one place where Jewish faith will thrive.”

The new 11,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility is the first Hillel of its kind in the state.

The student center has the only kosher kitchen on campus and in all of Portage County, according to a project report provided by Hillel.

“We are really excited that the new building on campus will allow KSU to boast its cultural diversity,” Chestnut said.

Other amenities include a cafe, large student lounge, wrap-around porch, coin-operated laundry room and a study area with free wireless Internet, all of which are available to students.

“The more we can get out there and show students what we have to offer, the more we can get them involved,” said Mike Levinstein, assistant director of Hillel at Kent.

The facility will also have offices for the Hillel staff, along with many other improvements from the current 1,600-square-foot building. The current building, located at 202 N. Lincoln St., is not wheelchair accessible and does not have air conditioning. The new student center will provide both, adding to the creation of a comfortable and approachable atmosphere.

“The way the new facility is going to elevate our program is almost unimaginable,” Chestnut said.

The centralized location across from the Business Administration Building will invite more students, Jewish or other, to participate in Hillel activities. The new site will provide a more convenient meeting place for students, especially considering it will have the only cafe on north campus, according to the project update.

The vision for Hillel’s new home is not limited to the Jewish faith, Chestnut said.

“We have spaces that can be used for but are not strictly devoted to religious activity,” she said.

Levinstein said the organization is working toward being viewed as not only a religious entity, but a cultural organization.

“There are many Jews today that hold fast to cultural traditions but don’t hold as closely to the religious aspect,” Levinstein said. “We were a people before we were a religion. If we were strictly a religious group on campus, then we would be building a synagogue.”

According to the project report, the new building will have a chapel that holds 100 people comfortably and can be used as a multi-purpose room for lectures and other large group gatherings. This will eliminate renting expensive off-campus facilities, which has dented Hillel’s budget in previous years.

Hillel of Kent has high hopes for the future of the organization with the completion of the brand new student center, Chestnut said.

“We hope Jewish life will continue to grow on campus outside of the four walls of our fantastic new facility,” she said.

Contact religion reporter Courtney Cook at [email protected]