Queens College Hillel celebrates major milestones in its recent efforts to “turn commuter into community.” Traditionally attended mostly by commuters, a resurgent Hillel and a growing residential culture on the campus combine to fuel a vibrant and growing sense of Jewish community at Queens College. Hillel will celebrate the completion of this major transformation process that is more than two years in the making with a dedication event on October 28, 4:00–6:00 p.m. at Queens College.
The renovation punctuates a two-year-long transformation that included new personnel and programs. Even before Uri Cohen became executive director in the fall of 2011, “it was immediately clear to me that the Jewish community at Queens College had all the necessary ingredients to become one of the elite college campuses for Jewish students,” says Cohen. “QC’s terrific academic standing, proximity to kosher food, unbeatable price, and long service to the Jewish community make it a can’t miss endeavor.”
The new staff and programs kicked off in mid-2012, including a sector of Jewish Student Life and a Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) couple as part of a signature partnership with the Orthodox Union. “These new staff positions and the hires made to fill them meant that we had what Jim Collins refers to in Good to Great as the “right people on the bus.” This helped us put cutting-edge programs in place, and serve our students at an elite level,” reflects Cohen. Indeed Queens College serves 4,000 Jewish students including 1,000 Orthodox (the largest number of such students outside Yeshiva University), 350 Persians, 1,000 Bukharians, and thousands more non-Orthodox students.
Hillel’s physical plant, however, was hindering its success. “The space felt dingy and old. Loved, but old,” says board president Ellen Koppelman. “I had visions of hundreds of students having meaningful Jewish experiences at the same time, each according to his or her unique Jewish identity. That was just not possible in the old space, physically or culturally. I looked at myself in the mirror one day and realized that I could make a huge difference here.”
A major supporter of New York Hillels, UJA-Federation of New York was very involved in the project, providing mentorship, connections, and a capital grant. “It was so exciting to be approached to work on a Hillel project that could make such a difference,” said Betsey Knapp, program associate at UJA Federation, who works with its Management Assistance Program and Building Repair Committee. “Our professional and volunteer leaders were thrilled to help; we knew this was a project we wanted to help push forward because of its leadership, vision, and participation in our network of beneficiary agencies.”
The project also received significant support from Queens College President James Muyskens. “Hillel has played a leadership role on campus for decades, and this renovation was long overdue. It was my pleasure to lend our support. Hillel is truly an indispensable campus partner at Queens College.”
The family of Mrs. Belle A. Lipman, of blessed memory, selected Queens College Hillel to receive a brand new Torah Scroll in her honor and memory. The Lipman family has given Torah scrolls to many Hillels and other Jewish organizations and institutions in honor and memory of Mrs. Belle Lipman and her husband, Mr. Mark Lipman, of blessed memory. “The fact that Queens College has the largest number of Orthodox students outside of Yeshiva University was significant, demonstrating that the Torah will be a major difference-maker there and get lots of use,” said Tim Cohen, vice president of Hillel’s Schusterman International Center on the family’s selection of Queens College. It will be the first Torah scroll the Hillel owns.
“There are few opportunities to celebrate positive transformations of this practical magnitude, and we look forward to welcoming the community to see ours,” says Koppelman. The celebration will take place at Queens College Hillel (65-30 Kissena Blvd., Student Union 206, Flushing, NY 11367). Directions to the events can be found at www.qchillel.org/about/directions.
For information, contact Uri Cohen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-793-2222. v