New Hillel opens amidst tradition

The Edward H. Rosen Hillel Center officially opened its doors for all students in a ceremony last week.

The Edward H. Rosen Hillel Center officially opened its doors for all students in a ceremony last week.

The dedication ceremony for the Edward H. Rosen Hillel Center, which took place a block off Main Campus Wednesday night included greetings and remarks from many of those involved in the realization of a center where all students – not just those of the Jewish faith – can gather. Those in attendance included Sen. Arlen Specter, President Ann Weaver Hart and namesake Edward H. Rosen.

Rosen wore a suit, a red tie and a rose pinned to his left lapel and spoke openly and warmly about his role in the campaign for a Jewish community center.

A graduate of Yale, Rosen learned at his school’s Hillel about community service and giving back, and after 20 years of service on Temple’s Board of Trustees, the opportunity presented itself.

“I’ve been working in the community trying to pay back the opportunities I had growing up. My goal [with this Hillel] was to make a meeting place for forums and lectures … It’s a wonderful place,” Rosen said.

As Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, said in his opening remarks at the dedication, the need for a new Hillel was recognized 25 years ago. The project did not start until Rosen’s friend offered him a gift to recognize his service to the Temple community.

That friend was Alan Slifka, managing principal of the New York City-based hedge fund Halcyon/Alan B. Slifka & Company, and Slifka donated $1 million to the center. Howard Gittis, who served as chairman of the Board of Trustees until his death in September 2007, and who was “a total gentleman” Rosen said, offered him half a million and promised to raise an additional $300,000 if Rosen could raise the rest.

Richard J. Fox, for whom Temple’s business school is named, also donated to the cause.

“Dick Fox has been my friend since we were little kids, and he was very helpful,” Rosen said.

The deals were made five years ago.

“A new era is underway … campus is exploding with beautiful new buildings,” Howard Goldberg, chair of the Hillel at Temple Board of Overseers, said in his remarks at the dedication.

“Some would say that Ann Weaver Hart is a master ribbon cutter … [Tonight] we have given her diversity. Instead of a ribbon to cut, she has gotten a mezuzah to affix, or that has been affixed,” Rosen added.

The mezuzah, Jewish studies professor Elliot Ratzman explained, is the Jewish tradition of hanging a small scroll of parchment inscribed with a prayer three-fourths up from the floor on all the doorposts in the house. The mezuzah is meant to welcome visitors to the house, and Ratzman noted, Orthodox Jews kiss the mezuzah upon entering.

The hanging of the mezuzah was a smaller, more intimate ceremony held before the dedication, which filled the third floor of the Rosen Hillel so that it appeared more were standing than were seated. The mezuzah hanging was done by Craig Blackman, Temple alum and past president of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, and his parents Arthur and Barbara.

“The ability to give back to a campus which has meant so much to my family, and a community which has been such an integral part of our upbringing and values development, is immeasurably wonderful. Hillel helps us to remember where we are from and where we can go from here. And to know that my parents will now forever be a part of the Temple legacy, with their names inscribed upon the entry walls of the new Rosen Center … is amazing,” Blackman said.

For those present, it meant the beginning of a renewed community and hope that all students would gather at the Rosen Hillel, regardless of faith.

“[This building] is magnificent … What a great renewal,” Specter said.

Leonard Barrack, Temple alum and trustee and the president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said in his remarks that “[the Rosen Hillel is] the center for dialogue for all students.”

“When the doors of this building opened, the doors of this community opened,” Megan Baumel, class of 2012 and Tzedek Chair of the Hillel, said.

Rosella LaFevre can be reached at

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