In her speech at the dedication of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life, Hillel Program Professional Lorinda Weinstock quoted the Ethics of the Sages: “Know from where you came and to where you are going.”
Weinstock explained that the donation from her former Hebrew student, Trustee Richard K. Abbe ’92 and his wife Merav, is a poignant milestone in the history of Jewish living and education at the Colleges. “We now have our very first permanent home for Jewish life on campus.”
“Spiritual paths truly need a physical space,” explained Evan Brown ’08, president of Hillel and House Manager for the Abbe Center. “We now have that space, a place where we can have home-cooked Shabbat every week, cook kosher meals and so much more. For all of this, the residents in the house, the members of Hillel and our entire Jewish community thank Mr. Abbe and his wife for their generosity.”
“When I was a student, there were no formal Jewish programs,” Abbe recalled in an interview before the dedication. “We went to the basement of Emerson for services. With this new space, we’ve created a place for people to go and to feel comfortable. It’s also one more place we can point to on a college tour to show diversity at HWS.”
The new space accommodates nine students with a variety of majors, minors and interests. The home’s spacious dining room, living room, conference room and separate kosher-style and true kosher kitchens make it an ideal space for gatherings.
The house, located among other historic homes on South Main, is across the street from Temple Beth-El. According to Brown, the proximity to Temple has strengthened the relationship between students and the congregation. The students have been over for dinner already this semester and there’s more participation in services. Soon, they plan to host congregation members for an “Oneg Shabbat,” a dessert reception following Friday night services.
Even the furniture is something the students can feel good about, not only because it’s brand new and members of Hillel had a say in choosing it, but because they requested that all furniture be environmentally friendly, “in keeping with the Jewish movement of being stewards of the Earth,” explained Brown. All of the furniture in the home can be dismantled, recycled or repurposed.
“With the encouragement of my friend, former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Charlie Salisbury, as well as my wife, Merav, I am honored to give back to Hobart and William Smith,” Abbe said at the dedication.
At Abbe’s request, a plaque was placed in the entryway of the building to commemorate the three Hobart alumni who died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.
“This project is especially meaningful to me because it celebrates the memory of my good friend Andrew Golkin ’93 as well as two other alums – Michael Simon ’83 and Scott Rohner ’01,” Abbe explained.
Eileen Simon P’11, Simon’s widow, and her children Brittany ’11, Michael Jr. and Tyler were also present at the dedication.
“When students come to the Colleges, an integral part of their liberal arts education is learning about difference,” said President Mark D. Gearan during the dedication. “Today marks an important moment for the Colleges turning from a complicated history of inclusion to a place that celebrates the vibrancy of Jewish Life.”
Photo, top right: Dedicating the new Abbe Center for Jewish Life were President Mark D. Gearan, Merav Abbe, Trustee Richard K. Abbe ’92, Hillel Program Professional Lorinda Weinstock, President of Hillel and House Manager for the Abbe Center Evan Brown ’08 and Chairman of the Board of Trustees David H. Deming ’75.
Photo, bottom left: Trustee Richard K. Abbe ’92 and his wife Merav in front of the new Abbe Center for Jewish Life.