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2016-08-26 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


August 26, 2016  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

USF Hillel to host dual celebration: new building name, new kitchen

The USF Hillel addition still under construction earlier this month. The half million dollar project, which includes a kitchen and dining room, will officially open Sept. 18. The USF Hillel addition still under construction earlier this month. The half million dollar project, which includes a kitchen and dining room, will officially open Sept. 18. On Sunday, Sept. 18, Hillel at the University of South Florida will host a celebration to name its center and officially open its new, full-sized kitchen and expanded dining room.

USF Hillel’s building opened in 2002 and for years has carried construction loan debt, but a recent sizable donation from Joseph Lubeck, who lives in southeast Florida, has made the facility debt free. In making his donation Lubeck asked to name the Hillel center after his deceased maternal grandparents. To honor that request, the building will become the Morris and Bertha Escoll Center for Jewish Campus Life.

“I loved my grandparents and just want to honor them. I also love Hillel and thought it was a good match,” Lubeck told Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, executive director of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast.

Lubeck is CEO of Electra America, a subsidiary of a Tel Aviv investment/ real estate company that has properties in Israel, China, Europe, India and North America. He had no connection with the University of South Florida Hillel, other than a friendship he formed with Rabbi Rosenthal when the rabbi headed the Hillel at Cornell University and Lubeck’s children became involved in that Hillel.

The USF Hillel center has long been a central place for Jewish students at USF, but has lacked one important thing: a proper kitchen and dining area. And Hillel lacked the resources to build it.

The original kitchen was 100 square feet with a few cabinets, a small refrigerator, and a microwave oven.

Rabbi Rosenthal said without a true kitchen, they “were very creative” in organizing Shabbat dinners. From catering to cooking the food elsewhere and bringing it to Hillel, providing a proper Friday night meal for the students became very expensive.

Hillel’s lack of a kitchen also meant there was little to no student participation in the preparation of food, which typically brings many people together.

In 2014, USF Hillel received the funds necessary to build a new kitchen and expanded dining room and construction began in January of this year.

The expansion includes a kosher kitchen with two refrigerators, a freezer, a combination range/oven, ice cream freezer and maker, a charbroiler, a combination oven for pastries and breads and a three-compartment sink. The dining room, which will double as added programming space, will be able to seat about 100 with additional space on the new patio for another 100 or more.

The total price tag of the project ran close to half a million dollars, according to Hillel’s Assistant Director Linda Wolf.

The grand opening celebration, which will be held from 4-6 p.m. at USF Hillel, 13101 USF Sycamore Drive, is free and open to the community. It will feature musical entertainment, food and a mezuzah hanging ceremony.

The completion comes as the new semester begins and in time for the High Holidays in early October.

“With the addition of the new kitchen and expanded program space, we’ll be able to offer our students so many new and unique program opportunities including cooking classes, Challah baking, pizza parties, and a weekly ice cream parlor. This expansion strengthens Hillel as the center for Jewish students on campus,” Rabbi Rosenthal said.

Events such as the ice cream social, which will begin in October, as well as challah baking, will be open to the whole community.

Suncoast Hillels’ staff and board, USF faculty, USF students who will use the kitchen and dining room, as well as other Tampa Bay area Jewish community members will be in attendance. All donors will be recognized.

The expansion was designed free of charge by Meyer Weitzman, principal of Meyer Weitzman Architecture (MWA), and Ken Schwartz, president and CEO of SSA Food Service Design and Consulting. USF Trustee Debbie Sembler and her husband Brent, as well as anonymous donors, made the addition possible.

The Tampa Jewish Federation, the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties and the June Baumgardner Gelbart Foundation also assisted Suncoast Hillels with funding to ensure that all of the vital kitchen equipment could be purchased and installed in the planned amount of time.

USF Hillel has set up a kitchen registry to invite community members to donate materials for the new kitchen. So far, USF Hillel alumni, students and community members have helped to raise 90 percent of the money needed to help properly stock the kitchen. Individuals who donate more than $18 will receive a free USF kippah.

For those still interested in donating registry items, use the online registry ( or the items can be purchased directly from Louis Wohl/Chef’s Warehouse, 11101 N. 46th St. Tampa, or by calling (813) 985-8870.

Community members can also independently host a kitchen shower to raise funds. All registry donors will also be recognized at the grand opening celebration. Questions about the registry or hosting a kitchen shower should be directed to Linda Wolf, Suncoast Hillels assistant director, at or (813) 899-2788.

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