Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Community breaks ground on Jewish student center

September 17, 2001

After a four-year campaign, one MSU student group will see its dream come true.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Sunday to kick off construction of a new Hillel Jewish Student Center, 402 Linden St., on the former location of the old structure.

More than 75 people came to celebrate the beginning of the new structure.

“A new Hillel building is extremely important to MSU,” said Andrew Bocknek, a finance senior who also sits on the Hillel board of governors. “Having this building gives Jewish MSU students a home away from home.”

Because Bocknek plans to graduate in May and will not be able to utilize the new facility, he said he looks forward to seeing Hillel as a community member.

“We worked hard to get this building, and I am more excited that it is actually happening than disappointed that I won’t be a student,” he said.

With more than $3.1 million in donations collected, the new building is set to be completed by next year’s Jewish new year - Rosh Hashanah - which falls in mid-September.

The ceremony, which began with a moment of silence out of respect for Tuesday’s tragedies in New York City and Washington, featured speakers MSU President M. Peter McPherson and East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows.

“It is hard to have a celebration given last week, but this certainly is a wonderful day of recognition,” McPherson said. “This was not only a dream of Hillel and not only a dream of the students. It is also a dream of the university.

“The vitality of this structure will benefit the whole Jewish community.”

McPherson mentioned the various Jewish programs the university offers, including improvements to the Jewish Studies Program.

“At MSU, our number of Jewish students is growing, and I look forward to the growing community,” he said.

Meadows said the city of East Lansing was not at all hesitant to work with the Hillel organization, saying the new building was “an easy decision.”

“East Lansing has been noted for its diversity and devotion to the community. The Hillel Center is an example,” he said. “This is a culture where social activism and social justice are important, and the people who will populate this establishment will hopefully stay active and devoted.”

Rebecca Zaidel, president of the student board at Hillel and elementary education senior, said after the past week’s tragedies, a place like Hillel has never been more needed.

“This will be a safe haven for students, giving them a place to come pray, meet and reflect together,” she said.

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