More than a decade after buying property for a new home base in downtown State College, Penn State Hillel is welcoming students this fall into the newly built Nancy and Bernard Gutterman Family Center for Jewish Life. “Community is such an important part of Jewish tradition, and this creates a space for Jewish students to feel safe, proud, and connected,” Penn State Hillel executive director Aaron Kaufman says of the center, located on the corner of Beaver Avenue and Garner Street.
Kaufman says the faith group, which serves more than 5,000 Jewish students at University Park, had “massively outgrown” its space in Pasquerilla Spiritual Center, where it had been since 2003. The 100-square-foot kosher kitchen in Pasquerilla, for example, is dwarfed by the new 900-square-foot commercial kitchen that students will be able to use now.
Hillel will continue to maintain a presence in Pasquerilla, converting its offices there into a larger student lounge and meeting space for students. But off-campus, the new center is envisioned as a “Jewish version of the HUB,” Kaufman says, with rooms for meeting, studying, worshipping, and relaxing. A free coffee bar for students, a large terrace, and a fireplace lounge facing Beaver Avenue are sure to attract current students and prospective Penn State families, he says. “When Jewish families look at college, they always shop the Hillels on campus.”
Penn State Hillel is both a student-registered organization and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit separate from the university. The new center was funded largely through donations from Nancy ’52 Lib and Bernard Gutterman ’51, ’53 MS, ’58 PhD Engand David N. Pincus ’48 Lib. Stefanie Tapper ’10 Sci, director of institutional advancement for Penn State Hillel, says the group is now raising funds for programming to expand its offerings. “We’re going from 1,800 square feet to almost 16,000,” Tapper says, “and we want it to be filled with life.”