Home / News / LocalRSS Feed
UW Hillel to begin capital campaign for new building
December 1st, 2006
After more than 50 years in the same building, the Hillel Foundation-University of Wisconsin in Madison is undertaking a community campaign to fund construction of a new and enlarged facility at its current site at 611 Langdon St.
Highland Park, Ill., resident and UW alumnus (1957) Larry Hochberg made the lead gift and initiated the campaign, according to Hillel executive director Greg Steinberger. Hochberg is retired CEO of Sportmart in Chicago and a longtime supporter of Jewish student life at UW-Madison.
The new facility will be named The Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Life, in memory of Hochbergs late wife, a leader and activist for Jewish causes who was first woman president of the Chicago Jewish Federation.
The campaign budget calls for $10 million for the new building and temporary relocation costs, and a $4 million program endowment. To date, UW Hillel has secured $7 million in pledges and commitments.
Hillel hopes to hire project architects and contractors by February 2007 and with hard work and a little bit of luck, we will achieve another $2 million in commitments and set a groundbreaking date in 2007, Steinberger said.
The majority of the money raised so far has come from UWs alumni base in New York, Chicago and Madison, he said.
The notion of a need for a new facility has been discussed for 15 to 20 years, Steinberger said in a telephone interview, and we have come to the right place programmatically to go ahead with it now.
The present two-story building with 7,500 square feet of usable space, according to Steinberger has long been inadequate and depressing, said UW Hillel President Brad Backer, of Milwaukee. Our efforts here are to bring the facility up to the level of the programs that are being jammed into it.
Unlike other Hillels where Steinberger has worked, UW Hillel has focused on building its programs first, rather than its facility, he said.
But now, the current building on Langdon Street is more of a hindrance than a help, Steinberger said. In a place like Madison where there is competition for the hearts and minds of the students, Hillel has to have an attractive space, he said.
Hillel sponsors 30 student groups and sometimes has four or five events going on at the same time, Steinberger said. On Friday nights Conservative, Orthodox and Reform services are held simultaneously, within feet of each other, a condition that does not enhance the experience for anyone, he said.
Our program is as big as the biggest Hillel out there, Steinberger said. Weve got them coming.
And though some students want to run programs and learn leadership skills, he added, some just want to come and relax, and we need to have space for them, too.
With more than 5,000 Jewish students attending UW-Madison from around the country, UW Hillel staff and students organize more than 300 meetings and programs every year.
In concept, the new facility would have more than 30,000 square feet of space on four floors. This would allow Hillel to host movies, lectures, cultural presentations, religious celebrations and festive dinners.
Comfortable lounges are planned to provide space for hanging out and informal gathering activities vital to fostering friendships and building community, according to Steinberger.
The plans also call for construction of a formal dining room allowing UW Hillel to enhance its kosher meal plan, a café, a fitness center, a library, a computer room and a 400-seat auditorium.
Backer said that even though he himself only set foot in Hillel twice in his six years as a UW-Madison student, I have become convinced the UW Hillel is one of the most powerful forces for Jewish continuity in Wisconsin.
Having seen the expansion of its programs and the number of Jewish students it reaches, Ive seen firsthand how Hillel forges connections between students and increases the likelihood that they will identify as Jews in the future.
Ive been astonished to see that it is a real force for promoting Jewish leadership because Hillel empowers students to assume responsibility for program development and for reaching out to students, Backer said.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, the UW Hillel will inaugurate the public phase of its capital and endowment campaign with a luncheon at the Helen Bader Foundation in Milwaukee.
The event will be held in cooperation with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. It will be hosted by Hillel vice president Amy Berkovits Stein; Backer; board members Paula Simon and Howard Zetley; building committee co-chairs Bruce Rosen and Diane Gutmann of Madison; and eight other members of the Madison and Milwaukee Jewish communities.
Ricky Sandler, of New York City and the UW class of 1991, is serving as capital campaign chairman.