No More Wandering in the Desert

Director David Singer speaks to the planning commission on April 27, 2017

There are many incredible things about UC San Diego: the top-rate education, our dedicated faculty and administration, and the stunningly beautiful campus at our location overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And then there are some less-than-incredible things about UC San Diego: the social reputation, tuition costs, the lack of seating at Perk’s.

Add to the negative list: UC San Diego lacks a Hillel building.

One hallmark feature of almost every major university around the country is a Hillel center, on or off campus, where students of all backgrounds can come together to build community, learn, celebrate, and be empowered as leaders. Except UC San Diego.

We have Hillel, the organization, which builds radically inclusive community among more than 1,000 students each year, fueling innovation and inspiring social entrepreneurship rooted in Jewish values. But we have no Hillel building, no center for our programs and initiatives. Like the Israelites described in the Bible, at UC San Diego, Hillel wanders from place to place, renting space for each meeting, each service, each meal.

Why? For almost two decades, Hillel has sought to build a center for our program on a parcel of land we own across the street from the University, opposite Revelle and the La Jolla Playhouse. But we have been delayed at every step of the way by a small group of vocal opponents who want to prevent Hillel from building. Now, things are finally changing.

On April 27, as expertly reported here in The Triton, the San Diego Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of our project, a 6,500 square foot center consisting of three buildings surrounding a central courtyard: the Beverley and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center.

Next, we will head to the City Council on July 11 for the final permits for our project. A Hillel center at UC San Diego is finally nearing reality.

Last week, the Associated Students voted to unequivocally support the construction of our center, urging the San Diego City Council to approve construction permits. We have the support of hundreds of neighbors, thousands of students, and nearly every administration member with whom we speak. Even United States Congressman Scott Peters, himself a La Jolla resident, has fully supported our project and recently wrote to the City Council, urging that body to do the same.

The fact is that our center will not just provide a crucial resource to the students we serve; it will also significantly beautify the neighborhood, right at the entrance to La Jolla and the University. Hillel’s land currently consists of a vacant lot and a useless cul-de-sac, over which we will develop 10,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

The project will include paths and sidewalks for safer pedestrian and bike access to the La Jolla Village Drive and Torrey Pines Road intersection, frequented by students and neighbors alike. Our buildings will provide a crucial buffer between area residences and the heavily trafficked streets. We have carefully designed our project to ensure zero negative impacts on the surrounding community, and have an eight year, 1,304 page Environment Impact Report to back up that claim.

Hillel will be a win-win both for the university community we serve and the neighborhood of which we are a part.

But we’re not out of the woods yet. As we near our critical hearing before the City Council, Jewish students, and their quest to have a center like any other, need your support. We cannot end this saga alone.

Voices like yours are powerful statements to our elected officials, encouraging them to do what is right and allow Hillel to build on the land that we own. On behalf of the more than 1,000 Jewish students at UC San Diego and the entire Jewish community of San Diego, I urge you to please take a moment to stand up in support of Hillel. Visit ucsdhillel.org, where you can learn more about the project and find the resources you’ll need to contact your City Councilmember.

We are all in this together.

Rabbi David Singer is the Director of UC San Diego Hillel. The positions stated here do not necessarily represent the opinions of The Triton, any of its members, or any of its affiliates.

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