“We just moved in [last] Thursday,” faculty advisor of Hillel Seth Katz said. “On Friday, 70 people showed up for dinner, and 60 came for services. There was really great turnout. We had a packed house.”
While the house is new to Hillel, Katz said it isn’t exactly new.
“The house is about 100 years old,” he said. “We gutted it to the bricks and put in extra floor joints so if there are a lot of people standing around for a party, it’ll hold. We also tripled the size of the building.”
Katz said there were many additions to the new house including two kitchens larger than those in the new Geisert cafeteria.
“You could fit two of their kitchens into one of ours,” he said. “We also have a lot of storage space, several bathrooms, five air conditioning units, a laundry room and an extra room in the basement that may be finished [for student use]. We might use that as a hangout room.”
The new sanctuary is another point of pride for Hillel, Katz said.
“The sanctuary seats 75 people right now,” he said. “We could probably fit 100 in with a squeeze.We’re having new stained glass put in with a burning bush and the Ten Commandments on it. The lighting upstairs is great for it.”
A Rabbi at a reform synagogue in Peoria will be holding Friday night services this year, he said.
“Friday services will be held at 5 p.m. again this year, but they’ll be led by Rabbi Daniel Bogard,” Katz said. “Dinner will be afterwards at 5:45.”
So far, students seem happy with Hillel’s new house.
“I am in love with it,” said junior Abby Baron. “It is such a good asset to the Jewish community and having a nicer house will draw more people in.”
Baron said having more space will allow the organization to host more programs and provide for students.
“I’m excited to watch our services grow because we have a new sanctuary,” she said. “We can also provide for students with dietary needs because we have room to make everything kosher.”
In a letter to President Glasser, senior electronic media and psychology major Gabriela Granote said she her expectations for the new house have been exceeded.
“Yesterday, for the first time, I walked into the new house,” Granote said. “My eyes could not believe what they were seeing. The new house is beautiful, beyond my wildest dreams.”
The administration has always been supportive of Hillel, Katz said.
“The university helped us find this new property,” he said. “They’ve been very supportive with this. We’ve been working on this for 13 years.”
Granote said she is excited to spend her last semester with the new house.
“I am so excited to be able to spend Shabbat in this amazing facility,” she said. “It will be wonderful to have this incredible house for all of our religious, educational and social programming.”
Granote said she is excited for the future of the Hillel house.
“It means a lot to me to be able to see all of the exciting changes for the Jewish students at Bradley,” she said. “As well as the Jewish community in Peoria and participate in all of it before I graduate this December. I believe the new house, kosher food options, Rabbi Daniel and Karen Bogard will be a great addition to Bradley.”
Katz said he is pleased with the outcome of over a decade of planning.
“This is the house we wanted,” he said. “This is the house we built. We are very grateful for the support of the university and the community.”
Hillel’s dedication will take place at the new house on Sept. 21 at 4:30 p.m. President Glasser, Rabbi Bogard and Katz will speak at the event.