HISTORY AND BUILDING
Central Florida Hillel is a catalyst for transformational growth as an individual and as a Jew.
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 2013 Pew study “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” One-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion. Only 4% of Jews of no religion will belong to a synagogue or other communal organization and only 20% of Jews of no religion will donate to a Jewish charity. 44% of American Jews will marry a non-Jewish spouse and 2/3s of them will raise their children with no Jewish identity at all.
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.