Students at UC San Diego are expected to have access to a new branch of the Hillel Center, which is expected to open by Fall 2022. Groundbreaking for the new location off Torrey Pines Road began on Sept. 19 with the hopes of offering the community a new space to engage in a variety of services and activities related to Jewish culture.
Development for The Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center has been heavily delayed for the past 20 years for a variety of factors — including lawsuits and environmental concerns, as reported by the La Jolla Light.
In an article published by the Times of San Diego in 2017, the continuous delay came from various opponents who felt the building of the center was out of place for what was described as a primarily residential area. Noise and parking concerns, the size of the facility, and the center’s ambiguity regarding its purpose were just some of the justifications given by opponents of the center as outlined in the article.
The alteration of the original scale size of the building, a more blended aesthetic visual of the building, as well as support by Jewish leaders in the area were behind the City Council’s eventual approval of the building.
Karen Parry and Lisa Motenko, the Hillel’s Executive and Associate Executive Directors, told The UCSD Guardian about how a collaborative effort was behind the end of the 20-year battle.
“Since 2000, we have been working with the community and navigating legal challenges to get here today,” Parry and Motenko said. “We are thankful to the many community members and elected officials that rallied in support of our effort. We are excited to now focus our efforts on the future, where we will serve UC San Diego students and continue building relationships and allyship with the community.”
The opening of the space means that cross-culture learning and engagement can be facilitated between Jewish and non-Jewish individuals on campus. A spokesperson for UCSD told The Guardian about the center’s encouragement of connections between students.
“The Hillel Center, similar to UCSD’s campus community centers, will be a place for students to affirm their identity, feel welcome, and share their culture with peers,” the statement said. “We recognize that student success is multi-faceted and that connecting with peers contributes greatly to personal growth. The new Hillel Center will serve as a catalyst for building lifelong friendships and continual learning from one another.”
As of today, the UCSD campus does not currently offer a specific center for Jewish individuals. Students do have access to multi-denominational resources, such as the Cross-Cultural Center, where students of various religious communities can come together in solidarity.
Parry and Motenko describe the Hillel Center as a resource for students to gain greater connections between faith and education.
“Our talented professional staff serves as mentors and educators to provide students with valuable tools and opportunities to be Jewish leaders,” Parry and Motenko said. “Our diverse programming brings together students of all backgrounds to form deep, personal, connections to Jewish life — here and in Israel. We are deeply committed to inclusion and pluralistic Judaism.”
The Hillel of San Diego, which currently reaches 2,000 students across several San Diego area colleges, has operated since 1992. According to its website, it is the only Jewish organization that engages with college-aged Jewish students in the San Diego area which includes students at San Diego State University, California State University, San Marcos, and the University of San Diego.
The Hillel Center at UCSD organization currently offers different services such as Triton Jewish Leaders, a mentorship program known as First-Year Students of Hillel, and a Jewish Learning Fellowship. The center has also modified events to follow COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, including holding online Shabbat celebrations between UCSD and SDSU students.
Although the center will primarily focus on Jewish opportunity and tradition, Parry and Motenko maintain that the center can provide much more to the diverse campus.
“We hope it will be utilized by an array of multicultural, social, and academic groups on campus and serve as a vehicle for building relationships in ways that enhance and celebrate the remarkable diversity at UCSD,” Parry and Motenko said.“Through meaningful programs and Jewish experiences, we hope this center will serve as a beacon of light for the whole community.”
Photo taken by Althea Tien for The UCSD Guardian
Images of the projected designs of the Hillel Center courtesy of the UCSD Hillel