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history and building

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History of Central Florida Hillel

 

In 2001, leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando established Central Florida Hillel to serve the Jewish college students of Central Florida.

The University of Central Florida has the third largest Jewish student population outside of the state of Israel. A conservatively estimated 6,000 Jewish students attend UCF, and UCF is currently the second largest, and fastest growing, university in the western hemisphere. With this in mind several major national philanthropists and foundations have recognized the importance of UCF for the future of the American Jewish community, and have invested a significant amount of  knowledge and resources into Central Florida Hillel.

In 2013 Central Florida Hillel opened a brand new state of the art building just off of campus at UCF. NorthView, the 600,000 square foot facility, was designed to not only house Hillel, but also serve as a 600 bed residence hall, and includes 20,000 square feet of program space for the Catholic Campus Ministry. We have the usual amenities that one would expect to find at any Hillel across the country – pool table, ping pong table and TVs with video games – but in addition, we offer our students a movie theater, swimming pool and a sand volleyball court. However, the building and staff would not matter without the engaging and meaningful programmatic opportunities available to our students – Shabbat dinners and services, social events and programs, Birthright Israel, Masa and Onward Israel trips, and opportunities to give back and connect to each other, to their schools, and to the greater Jewish community.

Hillel is the last opportunity for engagement before adulthood. According to the 2020 Pew study “Jewish Americans in 2020,” One-in-four Jews (27%) now describe themselves as having no religion, with that number all the way up to 40% for Jews between the ages 18 and 29. 

We don’t know what the future of the Jewish community will look like. We don’t know what synagogues will look like, we don’t know what Federations will look like, we don’t know what Jewish day schools and summer camps will look like, but there is one thing that we can be sure of, in 50 years Jews will still be going to college.

Photos of the Jeffrey and Diane Ginsburg Center for Jewish Student Life