During the recent Homecoming Weekend, a brunch was held at NorthView – the home of Central Florida Hillel (CFH). Over delicious food and drink, alumni and CFH supporters shared Hillel stories from as far back as the 70’s. Former student leaders and staff came to connect and to be a part of linking our past with our future.
Many alumni shared memories from before, during, and after “the apartment office” and “the vault” and some shared memories of county meetings in support a construction project for a new building. Clearly, each alumnus has played a role in bring us to the agency we are today.
Just to drop a few numbers into these reflections … we have grown from a dozen or so Jewish students gathering in the 70’s for programs, to several dozen gathering in the 90’s for projects, to over 50 gathering for construction related meetings, to over 180 gathering for our first Shabbat at NorthView, to over a thousand participating in CFH programming today.
But, what is NorthView and how did we get to our new home? NorthView is a 600-bed student housing facility with a resort-style swimming pool, 24-hour fitness center, co-ed sauna, and game room. The parking garage is seven stories, ensuring that no student will have to take an elevator or brave the Florida elements on the way from their cars to their dorm rooms.
What makes NorthView noteworthy isn’t so much the lavishness as the idea behind it: to create America’s first self-sustaining Hillel. The ground floor of the seven-story building includes a 20,000 square foot Hillel center with approximately 9% of its operation budget funded by rental income from the associated 600-bed student-housing element. When the debt is retired, about 19 years from now, a larger percentage of the operating budget could come from student housing rent.
The Jewish philanthropists behind this unique arrangement aren’t simply giving the 15-year-old Hillel a building; they’re giving a future income stream.
“This is a remarkable gesture of philanthropy — the university desperately needs the beds, and Hillel could use this funding,” said Sidney Pertnoy, a Miami businessman and philanthropist who was, at the time of construction, the chairman-elect of Hillel International’s Board of Directors. “There are some Hillels connected to some housing, but nothing even remotely resembling this model. It’s a unique cash-flow model and we’re super excited about it. We’re hoping this is a prototype for other communities.”
The unusual project is an attempt to address a perennial problem faced not just by Hillel chapters but by Jewish institutions around the world: How to create a perpetual funding source. The task was to create an economic machine that would take advantage of the opportunities afforded by a large university, a related student housing project, and our Central Florida Hillel. That part of the mission has been accomplished – now we focus on raising the necessary funds to provide the programming and enrichment opportunities student’s desire. Over the next 19 years, Central Florida Hillel will rely on the generosity of alumni, parents, and community members to ensure the students have funding for Shabbat dinners, conference travel, and social gatherings. Donations given on Giving Tuesday, around the high holidays, and year round go directly towards student programming budgets and to ensure the organization continues to grow to support the needs of a growing student population on campus. Thank you in advance for all you are doing to help UCF thrive over the next 19 years and for decades to come.
I also want to personally invite you to come visit UCF and see what your Hillel has become thanks to the legacy you left behind as a student.