Special to the Ledger
NEW LONDON — A cold day gave way to a warm welcome as the doors were officially opened to Connecticut College’s new Zachs Hillel House at a campus ceremony held on Tuesday, Jan. 28. Close to 150 well-wishers stood shivering in freezing temperatures, as they waited for the ribbon to be cut on the College’s first Hillel House, which will serve as the center for Jewish student life and related intercultural programming at the College. A formal dedication of the Zachs Hillel House will be held in May.
“This is a moment I’ve been dreaming about for years,” Jerry Fischer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut, told those gathered.
The 6,700-square-foot building is located on the north end of campus and includes a conference room, library, study space, a kosher kitchen and a large recreational area. The new facility provides space for weekly Shabbat services and religious observances, lectures, study sessions and meals like the popular Bagel Brunches.
The new Hillel House was made possible by a $1 million gift from Connecticut entrepreneur Henry Zachs, a generous philanthropist who has funded Hillel Houses at Trinity College and the University of Connecticut, and his family. In fact, it was at the Trinity Hillel a few years ago that Zachs was approached by several Conn College students who broached the idea of erecting a Hillel house on the New London campus.
“My family and I are pleased to support the construction of a space that will promote intellectual and social growth for the entire
Connecticut College community,” Zachs said. “Hillel has become a vibrant program at Connecticut College and we hope that a dedicated facility will ensure its growth into the future.”
Zachs also announced plans to build a Hillel on the campus of the University of Hartford.
Other speakers at the ceremony included Conn College President Katherine Bergeron, Dean of the College Carolyn Denard; seniors Spencer Francus and Adam Rosenberg, co-presidents of Connecticut College Hillel. The ceremony culminated with a traditional Hebrew blessing by Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg, the College’s Jewish chaplain, and the traditional placement of the mezuzah on the doorframe of the building entrance.
The College is currently in the process of finding a new Hillel director who will oversee the daily programs and events at the Zachs Hillel House.