Several hundred students and supporters gathered at 210 W. Cameron Ave. as Rabbi Frank Fischer and others blessed the state-of-the-art N.C. Hillel building with time-honored Hebrew traditions, such as the celebratory blowing of the shofar and the affixing of the Mezuzah, a small box containing tightly bound scripture, above the door.
The 10,700-square-foot building is not just a building to many who will enter its doors. N.C. Hillel President Kim Grabiner said she hopes the multipurpose building will help students find their Jewish identity.
"This building is much more than bricks and mortar; it is a symbol of a Jewish voice in North Carolina and a place that makes Jewish students future community leaders," Grabiner said.
N.C. Hillel, a foundation for Jewish campus life that serves UNC as well as campuses throughout North Carolina, has raised more than $1.7 million during the past four years to make its vision a reality.
"This would not have been possible without the help and support of many individuals, and we are excited about what this generosity means for all of us," said Or Mars, executive director of N.C. Hillel.
After guests moved inside to the lower sanctuary, Randall Kaplan, a member of Hillel's International Board of Governors and executive committee member of the Board of Directors, thanked his parents, Tobee and Leonard Kaplan, for their involvement and contribution to the planning process.
William Friday, president emeritus of UNC, spoke of his personal experiences with Hillel. "Hillel has always been a part of University life; I developed great strength by being part of this organization," he said. "Generations of N.C. Hillel students have gone on to be exemplary, giving citizens in the community, and that's what makes this day one of profound gratitude and celebration."
Richard Joel, president and international director of Hillel, echoed Friday's sentiments, stressing the relationships that Hillel foments on campus. "The cornerstone of Hillel is a partnership between students, professionals and lay leaders who make the fabric of Hillel work by moving it forward. It's wonderful to be here today, not because we are dedicating a facility, but because we are dedicating ourselves."
Rachel Gurvich, a freshman English and political science major from Raleigh, thought the new building would offer long-term benefits to the UNC student body. "It's a good centralized meeting place for the Jewish community here and will help strengthen the bonds between students," she said.