The Red & Black (August 26, 2023)
The grand opening of the Orkin Hillel Center at the University of Georgia took off without a hitch on Friday morning. The center will serve as a new headquarters for Hillel UGA, a focal point for Jewish students at the university, moving locations from Milledge Avenue to Baxter Street.
The event began with a welcome from Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, CEO of Hillels of Georgia, and an invocation by Rabbi Eric Linder of the Congregation Children of Israel.
Officials present at the event included Anat Sultan-Dadon, Consul General of Israel to the Southeastern United States, and Kiana Perkins, the outreach associate to the office of Senator Jon Ossoff. They presented the respective flags of Israel and the U.S. at the grand opening of the building.
“I think that this is a wonderful celebration and investment in that Jewish identity for the younger generation, in their connection to their Jewish tradition and identity and also in their connection to the State of Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people,” Sultan-Dadon said.
The event carried on with a multitude of speakers from a variety of organizations, including representatives from the city of Athens, the office of Governor Brian Kemp, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Hillel and the community. Also in attendance was president of UGA Jere Morehead.
Jeremy Lichtig is the campus director for Hillel UGA and had significant involvement in the process of creating the new center. Lichtig gave a speech, and was thanked fruitfully in the speeches of others.
“It's always been our mission to support the Jewish students, the community and build bridges everywhere and we finally got to the point that the building matches all the work that everybody has been doing and it's wonderful,” Lichtig said.
Following the speakers was a mezuzah dedication to the Orkin family, the namesake of the new Orkin Hillel Center at UGA. Blessings for the mezuzah and a Shehecheyanu occurred thereafter.
Junior management major Ansley Selig was present at the grand opening and had experienced the old Hillel UGA house.
“My family's Jewish, so I've been to the old Hillel that's on Milledge,” Selig said. “The old one was really small, kind of old and beat down a little bit. And this one, from what I can tell, it's significantly nicer. It's awesome, honestly, and I know it means a lot for a lot of people.”
The new center is larger than its former location and located on campus across the street from the freshman dorms on Baxter.
Junior computer science major Noah Chen was also present at the grand opening and views the new center as an opportunity for students to feel comfortable on campus.
“It can be hard sometimes as a Jewish student to feel like you have a place and, obviously, at a huge southern school where you're a very drastic minority. There's only a few places on campus where you can actually go to feel that sense of home,” Chen said.
Home was a theme amongst the speakers when discussing the possibilities of the new Orkin Hillel Center at UGA. The center will be a place for students to gather, events to take place and as reflected in the speeches of many, a home away from home.
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