The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County has made a $500,000 legacy gift to Rutgers Hillel.
The gift, which was approved by the federation board at its Dec. 15 meeting, will name the rotunda student lounge in the $18 million Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County Leadership Lounge.
The College Avenue facility is now being constructed on the university’s main New Brunswick campus and is expected to be completed in the fall 2015.
The gift will also establish an annual leadership conference bringing in leaders of the business, educational, and Jewish communal service community from across the state.
The lounge, located near the main entrance, will remind students of the role the federation system plays in developing their connection to the larger Jewish community and Jewish philanthropy, said federation president Mitchell Frumkin.
Hillel also receives support from New Jersey’s other Jewish federations.
“Since part of our federation mission is to inspire the next generation to embrace Jewish life, developing Jewish leaders is critical,” he said, adding that the money came out of a Middlesex Jewish community development fund put aside some years ago.
“There have been discussions about this for three or four months, but really there have been informal discussions for several years,” said Frumkin. “This really just formalized what we wanted to do.”
The federation Leadership Symposium will bring in prominent leaders who will not only share their knowledge of the business world and success stories, but also stress the value of Jewish philanthropy. Frumkin said the symposium will be open not only to Rutgers students, but to Jewish students from other colleges and high schools.
Rutgers Hillel executive director Andrew Getraer called the gift “a wonderful and exciting moment for us in our capital endowment campaign.”
“It speaks to a very longstanding relationship Hillel has with the Middlesex federation,” he said. “The lounge is one of the most prominent spaces inside our new building. It’s really important that students see federation in Hillel so they begin to make the connection to the larger community and its support for Jewish campus life.”
While the gift will not change existing plans for the lounge, Getraer said, it will help Hillel in its fund-raising for the new facility, which now stands at $13.7 million.
“We’ve had numerous large gifts come in in the last couple of weeks, and this adds and continues the momentum of the campaign,” said Getraer, who noted federation had approached him about establishing a legacy gift.
He said the annual symposium is “a wonderful idea,” which federation and Hillel leaders will develop together.
Rutgers has the second-largest number of Jewish students of any campus in the United States, with 7,200 undergraduate and graduate students. The 35,000-square-foot facility will feature a 400-seat kosher dining hall; individual prayer spaces for Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox services; an indoor-outdoor kosher café; the Center for Israel Engagement; an exhibit gallery; social lounges; meeting rooms; and an outdoor patio.
The Middlesex federation is the largest funder of Rutgers Hillel in the state and already provides free weekly Shabbat dinners, and supports the Israel Engagement Center, Peer Network Leadership interns, and the Peoplehood Project along with the Jewish Mentoring Initiative, a joint venture with Middlesex County College in which students are matched with Jewish professionals for career mentoring.
Frumkin said he would like to next develop a job bank where students can list their resumes to be seen by Jewish business leaders throughout the state.
“These are all tied together, the mentoring initiative and now the leadership symposium and legacy gift,” he said. “The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County will forever be remembered as a partner in building a vibrant Jewish community here at our state university.”