Winnick Hillel Center to be dedicated on Sunday
Winnick Hillel Center to be dedicated on SundayNovember 14, 2003Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
A new building on the west side of Walnut Park is much more than just a structure. For Syracuse University’s Jewish student population, the Winnick Hillel Center for Jewish Life has become a destination, a place where students can study, socialize and, most importantly, nourish their faith.
The roots for the new Hillel Center were planted by the late Gerrie Sheinkopf, a senior director in the University’s Office of Development, and former Hillel director Sivan Kaminsky. Both recognized the need for Hillel to have its own unique space.
“Syracuse University has a significant Jewish population; the lack of a Hillel building was disadvantageous to both Hillel and the University,” says Joel Miller, Hillel’s executive director since 2001.
Miller says that the lack of a building did not preclude Hillel from having an illustrious life on campus. “Notwithstanding, times have changed,” he says. “In order to stay competitive, to attract students and to provide the programs that students need and desire, it was time to do this.”
The catalyst for the new building was a $2 million gift from alumna Karen Binkoff Winnick ’68 and her husband, Gary, of Los Angeles. The gift became the cornerstone of a $6 million fundraising drive chaired by alumni and Hillel friends Marvin Lender and David Flaum. A groundbreaking ceremony, attended by former Seagrams chair Edgar Bronfman Sr., was held in April 2002. Construction began last fall and the building was ready for students on Opening Weekend. The building will be formally dedicated on Nov. 16 in a special ceremony attended by the Winnicks.
“I am delighted to see the successful completion of the new Winnick Center,” says the Rev. Thomas V. Wolfe, dean of Hendricks Chapel. “Hendricks Chapel supports the growth of all religious groups on the SU campus. For the Jewish community, this means more space for their growing programs. Their success is everyone’s success. The existence of the Winnick Center further enriches the long-standing tradition of collegiality among diverse faiths.”
The 16,000-square-foot, three story building includes an auditorium that serves as a sanctuary, meeting rooms, a library, computer cluster, study areas, fitness center and a student lounge. One of the biggest advantages of the new building, Miller says, is the dining room. The space (which includes separate dairy and meat kitchens to adhere to dietary laws) allows Hillel to hold Friday evening Shabbat services and provide dinner under one roof. Shabbat services were previously held in Hendricks Chapel, and the dinner was served in Shaw dining hall.
“It was very inconvenient, and it didn’t make the evening seem special at all,” says Loren Knaster, a junior in broadcast journalism in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and president of Hillel. “Since we have had the Shabbat services at the Hillel Center, we have had quadruple the number of people in attendance.”
Additionally, the center has a Kosher cafe, modeled after Hendricks Chapel’s Peoples Place, that serves a variety of baked goods, fruit, sandwiches and beverages.
Knaster says that the new center has a “homey” feel that makes students feel comfortable. He is excited about the programs that Hillel is now able to offer, including the recent “Gangs of Upstate New York.” The weekend event brought together students from 11 colleges and universities for social, networking and spiritual activities.
“We never could have done something like this before,” Knaster says.
While Miller sees the building as the hub of SU’s Jewish student life he and his staff members are working carefully to ensure that Hillel’s activities do not become solely building-based. Hillel staff keep some office hours at Hendricks Chapel, and a number of programs will be carried out in residence halls and other spots around campus. Rebekah Smith, the Lender Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow on campus, maintains a workspace at the center but spends the bulk of her time around campus in her mission to help Jewish students along in their personal Jewish journey.
The Winnick Hillel Center is located at 102 Walnut Pl. For more information on Hillel and its programs, call 443-5042 or visit www.jewsonthehill.org.