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Grants Pave the Way for New Jewish Student Center at UCLA

Academia: The $6-million Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center will serve the campus as well as Los Angeles' Westside Jewish community.

June 02, 1998|BOB HOWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One of the largest Jewish student centers in the country is scheduled to be built next to the UCLA campus, thanks largely to just-announced grants of $1 million each from Seagram Co. Chairman Edgar Bronfman and entertainment industry figures Lew Wasserman and Steven Spielberg.

The $6-million, 18,000-square-foot building on Hilgard Avenue will be known as the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA, in memory of the slain Israeli leader.

It will serve about 5,500 Jewish students, faculty and staff at UCLA, which Hillel officials described as "the largest major university in the country with a substantial Jewish enrollment that lacks its own Hillel building."

Officials also said the center will serve as a cultural and educational center for Los Angeles' Westside Jewish community.

Andrea Cohen Gehring, architect in charge of design of the center for the Santa Monica architectural firm Widom Wein Cohen O'Leary Teresawa, said the new Hillel center will be one of the largest in the U.S.

Gehring said Widom Wein's design will reflect Westwood's Mediterranean-Spanish-style architecture. She estimated that construction will be finished within two years after a fall groundbreaking.

Hillel, currently housed at UCLA's Student Services Building, is the world's largest Jewish campus organization, with more than 500 regional centers.

UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale said in a statement that the new building "will complement our Center for Jewish Studies and will also provide an opportunity for all of our students to explore and learn more about the rich traditions of Judaism."

The new center will include a chapel, library, student recreation room, study areas, computer center, meeting rooms, classrooms and a kosher kitchen, along with offices for staff and students.

Rabbi Chaim Sedler-Feller, the UCLA Hillel director, said the Rabin Center is expected to become the focal point for Jewish life at UCLA.

According to Laurie Levenson, associate dean of Loyola Law School and chair of the UCLA Hillel Campus Council, new Hillel buildings at other colleges have contributed to a renaissance of Jewish life on campus, often doubling or tripling student participation.

According to Hillel's announcement of the $3 million in grants, the Rabin Center will be the first facility in the United States named in memory of the Israeli leader.

Seagram Chairman Bronfman is chairman of Hillel's International Board of Governors. Wasserman is chairman emeritus of Universal Studios, and director Spielberg is founder of the Righteous Persons Foundation.

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