Lehigh Hillel moved to a new location this year: 223 W. Packer Ave, a space with greater amenities for the student organization.
The new center was dedicated over Founder’s Weekend while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the organization.
The center boasts a kosher kitchen, student lounge, dining room, library, game room, meditation room and study and prayer spaces.
Steven Nathan, Hillel’s Rabbi, said Lehigh was not always the easiest place to be Jewish. The building that now houses Mohler Lab was the local synagogue, Brith Sholom Community Center and Synagogue, and acted as the previous Jewish Student Center where students would go to hang out and attend programs.
However, it was owned by the Jewish Student Advisory Council and within the next few years it was going to become Lehigh property, so the center needed somewhere else to call home.
Nathan said Hillel wanted and needed a bigger space to reside in. More important than this, however, was Nathan’s desire for a large commitment from the university to Hillel.
In 2008, there was an endowment campaign to raise money to pay a full-time director of The Office of Jewish Student Life, which was created in 2010. Nathan said the next issue was finding a building that could accommodate their needs.
“The fact that 40 years later the university is not only supportive but also providing a building to support staff and students shows a real growth of the Jewish community on campus,” Nathan said. “What I look most forward to seeing is the growth of the community and being able to create a home away from home for all.”
Nathan said non-Jewish students are always welcome at Hillel events. He wants their facilities to be a place on campus for every student looking for support.
Tyler Katz, engagement and programming associate for Lehigh’s Hillel group and Office of Jewish Student Life, said the group also organizes collaborative events with other organizations, such as the Office of Gender Equity, the Office of Inclusion and Equity and Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity.
Katz said Hillel collaborated with the Asian Cultural Society and Chinese Student Scholar Society to hold the Mid Autumn Moon Festival Shabbat event in September.
“I did not know those were two of the largest organizations on campus,” Katz said. “We invited them and thought we would only get around 60 students, but we had at least 120 students attend with a line out the door.”
Katz said it was a great way to bring in students who may not be familiar with the organization and teach them about Jewish culture. The organizations provided food, and Katz said the collaboration was a very positive intercultural experience.
The group’s peer engagement and programming staff has also expanded, allowing more people to be involved in engaging with the community in the future.
Katz said around 800 students attended Hillel events throughout the 2021 academic year, many of whom weren’t Jewish.
Daniel Novick, ‘26, said he has attended two Hillel events this year and looks forward to engaging more with the Jewish community on campus.
“My high school did not have many active programs, so it is nice to see there is always somewhere for me to go on campus,” Novick said. “It is easy to spread a lot of hate and anti semitism, so it is important for Jewish students to have these outlets. There are a lot of Jews on campus, but not a lot of us in the world, so we stick together.”