For more than 300 years, Jewish students at the College of William & Mary have had to dream about having a Jewish home on campus. Jewish students have had to fight to book rooms for Shabbos and holidays. Kosher food was virtually impossible to get and having to reserve a different, small space for programs was the norm. This is all coming to an end.
Thanks to the generosity of Mark and Rosalind Shenkman, and the extended Shenkman family, a Jewish center will be built at William & Mary. The groundbreaking for the Shenkman Jewish Center on February 7 was well attended by students, university leaders, and others, all eager to take part in this historic occasion.
Rabbi Gershon Litt, director of William & Mary Hillel, speaking at the event said, “The time is now to create a lasting, strong, and permanent Jewish presence at William & Mary.” He went on to quote Thomas Jefferson, alum 1762, who said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Litt continued to make the point that while William & Mary sports an illustrious, yet complicated history full of incredible accomplishments, there were also times when not every student was welcome.
Alexina Haefner, Hillel student president, says that with the building of the Shenkman Jewish Center students will have a place to rest, do homework, eat kosher food, pray, get together, hang out, and meet fellow Jewish students. In thanking the Shenkman family, she notes that this place will give future Jewish students a true home away from home.
Hillel International CEO, Eric Fingerhut, who also attended the event, says that the time and situation is perfect to launch this project. “This partnership between Rabbi Litt, the Shenkman family and William & Mary could not be a better combination. The William & Mary Jewish community is on the verge of something great.”