A $3 million gift to Rutgers Hillel has “propelled” its campaign for a new building into its final phase.
The gift, made in memory of the late philanthropists Arie and Eva Halpern by their five children, brings the total raised so far to $12 million of an estimated $18 million needed to complete the project, said Hillel executive director Andrew Getraer.
In recognition of the gift, the largest received thus far to the capital and endowment campaign, the new Hillel building at 70 College Ave. in New Brunswick will be called the Eva and Arie Halpern Hillel House after its expected opening in 2015.
“This is going to change Jewish life at our state university for decades to come,” Getraer told NJJN. “It gives us the resources to begin construction, and we expect a ground breaking later this fall and construction to begin this academic year.”
Arie Halpern, who lived in Elizabeth and Springfield, was the founder of the Woodbridge-based Atlantic Realty. He died in 2006 at the age of 87. Eva died in 2012 at age 88.
The couple were Polish Holocaust survivors whose first spouses died at a young age. The two blended their families, with Eva bringing her sons Henry and Ben Stein, and Arie his daughters Bella, Shelley, and Nanette. The family now includes 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Henry Stein has been a Hillel board member for nine years, said Getraer, and, along with other members of the family who have been “deeply involved” in the effort, has offered input and support.
“It was a natural development in many ways for them to approach Hillel to say they wanted to memorialize their parents and grandparents by naming the new Hillel facility after them,” said Getraer.
Hillel moved out of its rented College Avenue building several weeks ago to temporary quarters on Bishop Place. Its new quarters are part of the university’s $330 million College Avenue Redevelopment project.
Combined with the financial benefits associated with being a part of the redevelopment plan, Hillel now “expects to close out the campaign before the building opens,” said Getraer.
The new facility will feature a 400-seat kosher dining hall; prayer space for Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform services; a kosher cafe; multi-purpose space, and an Israel resource center.
Rutgers Hillel is a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federations of Greater MetroWest NJ; Greater Middlesex County; Monmouth County; Princeton Mercer Bucks; Northern NJ; Somerset, Hunterdon & Warren Counties; and Southern NJ.
Stein called the gift in his parents’ memory “a natural continuation of their lives as community leaders who wholeheartedly embraced Judaism, Jewish education, and the Jewish community. Our parents lived their lives committed to the same Jewish values espoused by Hillel. It is fitting that their names be indelibly connected to Rutgers Hillel and its mission for generations to come. We could think of no greater way to honor their legacy.”
Hillel president Roy Tanzman praised the Halpern family for their generosity and said the new facility would “be the envy of the campus” and “a true home away from home” for Jewish students.
Rutgers has the second-largest undergraduate Jewish population in the nation, with more than 6,000 students. There are another 1,000 graduate students.
The Halperns were active supporters of the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth and played a major role in numerous other Jewish organizations, including Israel Bonds, Mizrahi, the World Zionist Congress, Religious Zionists of America, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the former Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, and the YM-YWHA of Union County.
Eva Halpern was a life member of Hadassah of Union/Elizabeth and the Elizabeth chapter of AMIT.
The Hillel campaign was jumpstarted by a $2 million gift from the Wilf family, enabling planning, design, and land acquisition. Other gifts included $1.5 million from the late Eric F. Ross.