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The Collegian

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by Jason

Jewish culture thrives on campus with new Hillel House

by India Amos

Paul Silver ’75, who currently works as an associate professor of medicine at George Washington University, attended Kenyon at a time when there were not only fewer Jewish students on campus, but also no designated place for them to practice their religion or culture. “The genesis [of Jewish organizations on campus] was probably Marc Goldstein [’72] and I,” Silver said. Silver and Goldstein started the Union of Jewish Students: Dar’Khey Yisrael, a group that made way for Hillel, the world’s largest Jewish student organization, to come to campus.

Dar’Khey Yisrael, which, according to Silver, translates as “Path of Israel,” came into being when Goldstein was a senior. However, it was not until April 1975 that Kenyon had its first kosher Passover dinner, which Silver said attracted nearly 70 students. “I flew in from New York these trays of frozen food, which were specially sealed so they could be cooked in non-kosher ovens,” Silver said. It was this massive event that solidified Dar’Khey Yisrael’s presence on campus.

Kenyon College Hillel - Winter

Alan Rothenberg ’67, namesake of the new Hillel House, noticed these issues from Silver’s time had not been addressed when his daughter came to Kenyon in 1992.  “Kenyon was getting a very poor yield out of Jewish students who applied to the College,” he said. “What we discovered was a lot of Jewish kids who wanted to go to Kenyon and brought their parents along, their parents wondered … whether it was possible to be Jewish at Kenyon.”

Before the Rothenberg Hillel House’s dedication this past October, Hillel was held in what used to be called the “Kat House.” “It was a women’s dorm,” Jewish Chaplain and Director of Kenyon College Hillel Marc Bragin said. “It really used to be a house. It got donated to be used for Hillel in the ’90s.”

Bragin said the old Hillel house left much to be desired, which helped spring the construction of the new house. “[Conceptually, the house] worked great, but the house [itself] was really falling apart,” Bragin said. “The foundation was cracking, and I would get up from my office chair and it would just slide to the other side of the room, because it was so crooked.”

Not only did the construction of the new Hillel house allow for traditional amenities, such as two separate kitchens to ensure kosher cooking, but the additional space also allowed for certain aspects of Hillel to be separated for the first time since the organization arrived on campus. In past years, students lived in the Hillel house, but one of organization’s recent changes was to provide housing for its student managers outside of the Hillel House. “We wanted to separate out the living component with the program part,” Bragin said. “Living in the Hillel house was kind of an old model for Jewish life … and that’s kind of separated so that we now have an NCA [North Campus Apartment].”

The NCA is home to Hillel’s two programming managers, Julie Hartman ’15 and Julia Kaplan ’17. Hartman and Kaplan were able to choose their apartment’s other residents. Hillel also has a building manager, Ben Marx ’17.

Kaplan enjoys being a part of Hillel and especially likes being a manager. “It’s a really rewarding job,” she said. “I really enjoy creating [an event], planning it and executing it. And you really reap the rewards as a manager. I really like interacting with other students who are also interested in Jewish life, or just getting to know people in the community.”

From traditional Shabbat services on Friday evening to movie screenings on the weekends, all Hillel-sponsored events are open to both Jewish and non-Jewish students. Samantha Shanker ’17, who helps manage Hillel’s social media accounts, said, “I think things have been changing since the building [was built], and [Hillel] really want[s] it to be sort of a multi-purpose center because it’s such a nice space, where other clubs can use all the facilities. I don’t know if a lot of people know that, and it would be really great if they did.”

“I also don’t know if people who are Jewish or not feel included yet, and that’s something we need to work on,” she continued.

Hillel’s next event, to be held on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 6 p.m., will be a screening of Everything is Illuminated in the new house, accompanied by pizza and popcorn.

“We program things so that they are inclusive for everybody,” Bragin said. “If there are things you don’t know, we want to teach you and help you understand. But we also want you to feel like you can come no matter what and that you’re always welcome here any time, because our doors are always open.”

New Spiritual Life Office

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by Jason

A new Office of Spiritual and Religious Life at Kenyon recognizes the need for mutual understanding, spiritual comfort and the exploration of religions and their narratives.

In creating the office, President Sean Decatur also named Marc Bragin, Jewish chaplain for the College, as office director, effective July 1. The College, working with the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio and the Church of the Holy Spirit, also is re-establishing an Episcopal chaplaincy in the context of the new office.

Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Marc Bragin.

Director of Spiritual and Religious Life Marc Bragin.

“The rich diversity of life at Kenyon includes students, faculty and staff of a number of religions and spiritual beliefs, and I believe our new Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, with Marc Bragin as director, will achieve its goals of encouraging community-wide dialogue and understanding and fostering spiritual growth,” Decatur said. “In Marc, Kenyon has a strong moral voice, an open mind and a source of compassion.”

Bragin believes people in the Kenyon community acknowledge the divisions among religious beliefs and between people of faith and those who rebuff organized religion but are keenly aware of the importance of living and learning together. “Let’s give our students and our colleagues the proper tools, the means, to make the decision for themselves about the kinds of lives they lead,” Bragin said.

The Episcopal chaplain also will serve as priest for the Harcourt Parish Episcopal Church that worships at the Church of the Holy Spirit and will be employed jointly by Kenyon, the parish and the diocese.

The roles of chaplain for the College and priest for the parish will be blended. Adam Serfass, associate professor of classics, a member of the parish and chairman of the parish job search committee, hopes the person will move fluidly between the two. “One of the things we’re really looking for is someone who has a real commitment to interfaith and ecumenical dialogue,” Serfass said.

Although Kenyon is nonsectarian, the parish and the church are reminders of the College’s Episcopal heritage. Bishop Philander Chase founded the parish in 1827, shortly after he established the College.

“I think the part of the Episcopal heritage that lives on is an interest in scholarly inquiry, investigation of texts and an intellectual approach to the world,” Serfass said. The parish has made a greater effort to connect with students of all beliefs in recent years regarding community service, social justice and events such as Wednesday night dinners when a variety of people gather for homemade meals and speakers at the Parish House on Brooklyn Street, he said.

Bragin anticipates a smooth chaplain collaboration. “We hopefully will do great interfaith work together to build bridges among the different groups on campus,” he said.

His goal is for all projects to fall under one of five tenets for the new office: fellowship, prayer, worship, meditation and study. The office will provide an outlet for advice on projects or services by various student organizations. Bragin’s office will remain in the Rothenberg Hillel House.

The Office of Spiritual and Religious Life is part of the Student Affairs Division under the supervision of Meredith Harper Bonham ’92, vice president for student affairs, who said the addition will create a more obvious religious center for the Kenyon community.

“The office will promote opportunities for all of our students to engage in interfaith dialogues and conversations about big-picture questions in keeping with Kenyon’s pluralistic liberal arts tradition,” Bonham said.

The existing Board of Spiritual and Religious Life, which will continue to include students, faculty members and community members, is part of the new office. The board is chaired by Elizabeth Keeney. The work of the board and religious programming should be driven by students, Bragin said. “We want students to take ownership of their spiritual life on campus.”

Kenyon Hillel Opens Its Doors

Posted on: November 16th, 2015 by Jason

A reception for the new Rothenberg Hillel House will take place Friday, Oct. 24, at 5 p.m. at the house, followed by a dedication at 6 p.m. The events are open to the public.

Kenyon College Hillel - Gambier

Yom Kippur services at Rothenberg Hillel House. Photo by Henri Gendreau ’16

Bloomfield Architects, headed by Peter Bloomfield ’73, constructed the building to complement the look of its new neighbor, the Cox Health and Counseling Center, designed by Gund Partnership. The Hillel House features a chapel, storage for an ark and Torah, and two separate kitchens for kosher cooking and for those who keep halal.

Services ushering in Rosh Hashanah marked the first official events at the Hillel House. “To start the new year of 5775 in a new structure was really an amazing thing,” said Marc Bragin, Hillel director and Jewish chaplain.

The building already is becoming central to Kenyon’s campus. “Just stepping into it, you get an incredible sense of place and Jewish culture,” said Ben Marx ’17, an English major from Los Angeles.

Bragin agrees. “There’s really a spiritual sense to the place,” he said. “It’s a home of Jewish life without having anything here that’s specifically Jewish. The energy of the building reflects the community we have here. It’s brand new, but it’s comfortable like it’s always been here.”

The original Hillel House that was torn down last year to make room for the new health center was never meant to be permanent, said Alan Rothenberg ’67 P’96 H’10, a College trustee for whom the new building is named. “We’ve always known the cottage was a make-due, though it was very sweet, very Kenyonesque,” he said.

Donations from Rothenberg as well as from Beatrice Cummings Mayer P’71 H’87, Barry F. Schwartz ’70, Matthew A. Winkler ’77 P’13 H’00, the Steinberg Family Foundation, the Richard I. and Arline J. Landers Foundation, and many others made building the new house, at a total cost of $650,000, possible.

“All in all it’s been great,” Rothenberg said. “It gives me something to look at and feel proud.”

He added, “There’s one little sign hanging in the wind that will provide a home for Jewish life for a lot of years. It just felt right.”

Upcoming Events

Kenyon College Hillel - High Holiday Services 2023/5784

Rosh Hashanah

Friday, September 15
6:00 PM - Rosh Hashanah Dinner at the Parish House

(Sign up by emailing Hillel@kenyon.edu with the names of everyone going to dinner)

7:30 PM – Erev Rosh Hashanah services at Rothenberg Hillel House

Saturday, September 16

10:00 AM – Rosh Hashanah morning services at Rothenberg Hillel House
4:30 PM – Community Tashlich – please meet at the Kokosing Gap Trail near the Lowry Center
For those who wish to observe the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah by attending services, Kenyon Hillel is happy to provide you with a list of Synagogues in the Columbus area

Yom Kippur

Sunday, September 24
7:30 PM – Kol Nidre services at Rothenberg Hillel House

Monday, September 25
10:00 AM – Yom Kippur morning services at Rothenberg Hillel House
5:30 PM - Yizkor (Memorial) service at Rothenberg Hillel House
6:00 PM - Neilah (Concluding) service at Rothenberg Hillel House

Immediately following Neilah, we will break the fast together at Rothenberg Hillel House at approximately 6:45 PM

Shanah Tovah! A happy and healthy New Year!