A formal ceremony marked the opening of the only Hillel center between Miami and Orlando. Named after long-time community philanthropists Mildred and Abby Levine and Ruth and Saul Weinberger, the Center will offer social, cultural and educational programs to more than 6,000 Jewish college students in Palm Beach and Broward counties. There are an estimated 1,600 Jewish students at FAU and 1,000 students at Lynn University and Palm Beach Community College.
Hillel of Broward & Palm Beach is a recipient agency of the Federation.
Ironically, Saul Weinberger, a former CPA, attorney and real estate developer who had been ill for a long time, passed away virtually minutes after the Levines and Shirley Solomon, a Hillel supporter and Federation board member, cut the ribbon in front of the building.
"Saul had a tremendous desire to make a lasting difference in the future of our Jewish community and his lifelong dream was to be able to do something to touch the next generation in a very meaningful way," said Hillel executive director Darin Diner. "He far surpassed the doctor's prognosis for many, many months because he repeatedly told those around him that he was going to be at this dedication. His spirit literally was here until the ribbon was cut and the celebration was over and he could let go."
Abby Levine, one of the founders of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and a past president, and his wife have supported many Jewish organizations over the years, including B'Nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, the Foundation for Fighting Blindness, Israel Bonds and Ruth Rales Jewish Family Services, a founding agency of the Federation. The Levine Boardroom at the Federation is named after them.
Also in attendance were FAU President Frank Brogan and newly-elected state senator Ted Deutch.
"It was the celebration of community founders, dreamers and visionaries to provide a great place for the students to enjoy Jewish life and one another," said Federation chair Etta Zimmerman.
The 3,000-square-foot Levine Weinberger Jewish Life Center, part of the Paul C. Wimbish Wing of the SE Wimberly Library at FAU, will share space with the new 24-hour Student Study Lounge and the library. Previously, Hillel occupied a 100-square-foot area in an old storage closet in FAU's Student Union.
"I think that a physical space truly strengthens and solidifies the students' identity," Diner said. "For many years we truly were wandering Jews. We operated out of backpacks and the trunks of cars. And yet that never deterred us. There is now a sense of pride and ownership and, I think, real prestige because of the prominence of this location."
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