Our vision is to provide every Jewish student at Rutgers a sense of
People, Place and Pride
Rutgers Hillel’s mission is to provide opportunities for every Jewish student at Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus to deepen their connection to Jewish identity and Jewish community. We seek to inspire our students to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.
Hillel embraces this mission by helping students find a balance in being distinctively Jewish and universally human by encouraging them to pursue tzedek (social justice), tikkun olam (repairing the world) and Jewish learning, and to support Israel and global Jewish peoplehood. Hillel is committed to excellence, innovation, accountability and results.
On a campus of approximately 6,400 Jewish undergraduates and 1,000+ Jewish graduate students, Hillel continuously strives to create a broadly defined Jewish campus culture which is intrinsically intertwined with the culture of Rutgers University. Our goal is to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.
Rutgers Hillel is a part of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, providing opportunities for Jewish students at more than 500 colleges and universities worldwide to explore and celebrate their Jewish identity. For more information about Hillel, visit its website, www.hillel.org
Rutgers Hillel’s history matches the remarkable changes in the University and the nation during its over 7 decades on campus. From its earliest days Hillel played a significant role in campus life, serving not only the religious needs of the campus Jewish community but also providing a center for social, political and artistic expression.
The Rutgers Hillel Foundation was established in 1943, building on the student run Hillel Council of Rutgers which had been founded three years earlier. Rabbi Julius Funk, of blessed memory, was hired as the first Hillel rabbi, and led Rutgers Hillel for the next 43 years, together with his wife Pearl. Their lifetime of dedication and commitment to Rutgers Hillel is recognized in The Rabbi Julius and Pearl Funk Legacy Gallery located in the lobby of the Hillel building at 70 College Avenue.
During WWII, Rabbi Funk’s first major project was to invite First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to campus, and she visited Rutgers Hillel in January 1944. Over 1,200 people attended the event and Mrs. Roosevelt raised $1.5M in War Bonds.
During the Vietnam War years Hillel was the focus of much campus debate and political action. In the 1970s, Hillel was an active part of the campaign to Free Soviet Jewry and also brought many famous dignitaries to campus, including such names as Chaim Potok, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Elie Wiesel, Jan Peerce, Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik, Theodore Bikel, and Simon Wiesenthal. The annual Jewish Arts Festival, a two week extravaganza, was a major community event for many years.
Rabbi Funk retired in 1982, and was succeeded by Rabbi Norman Weitzner. Rabbi Weitzner was succeeded by in 1995 by Rabbi David Gutterman, who oversaw the historic move to College Avenue and Hillel’s emergence as an independent organization, after over 50 years as an affiliate of B’nai B’rith.
In 2001 new professional leadership came to Hillel, as Andrew Getraer was hired as Executive Director and Rabbi Esther Reed as Assistant Director. Under their leadership Hillel has seen a period of tremendous growth and expansion in all areas. A major highlight of this period was the Israel Inspires campaign in 2003-04, a full year of high-profile pro-Israel activity, highlighted by the largest pro-Israel rally in the history of the State of New Jersey, held on Busch Campus. MC’d by student leaders, speakers included the Governor, both NJ Senators, Congressman, and other political, university, and religious leaders.
For many years Hillel was housed at different locations along George Street in downtown New Brunswick, before moving into a brand new facility on Ryders Lane, behind the Douglass Campus, in 1971. That facility was sold to the University in 1996, when Hillel moved to 93 College Avenue, our home until October of 2013.
From then until April 2017 Hillel moved to a number of increasingly insufficient locations: 8 Bishop Place (since torn down), 9 Bartlett Street (currently abandoned) as well as peripheral office space in Miller Hall and in the basement of the Highland Park Conservative Temple. It was a trying period, but with the new building visibly going up on College Avenue, students and staff persevered. In fact, Hillel was recognized by University Student Life as Large Campus Organization of the Year in 2015!
On April 2, 2017 Rutgers Hillel and the entire Jewish community of New Jersey celebrated the Gala Grand Opening of the brand new 40,000 square foot Evan and Arie Halpern Hillel House on the Wilf Family Campus at 70 College Avenue, in the heart of the University. Over 600 friends of Rutgers Hillel, leaders of the University, and NJ Jewish community attended the Chanukat Habayit ceremony dedicating the new building and the Gala diner that followed. Speakers included NJ Senator Robert Menendez, Rutgers President Dr. Robert L. Barchi, Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut, Rutgers Hillel Board of Directors President Roy Tanzman, Hillel Student Board President Samantha Brandspiegel ’17, and longtime Hillel supporter Mark Wilf.
In 2018, Rutgers Hillel celebrated our 75th Diamond Anniversary. With the first two years in our new home complete, a new era has begun – welcome to it!
Rutgers Hillel aspires to collect the history of Jewish life at Rutgers, and to share these stories with you here. If you would like to contribute to our history project, or order a copy of “The Jewish Experience at Rutgers” by Ruth Marcus Patt ’40, contact us at email@example.com.
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