Drexel to build Jewish center

The goal is to expand the school's outreach to Jews. Raymond Perelman has pledged $6 million.

Posted: September 06, 2014

With a goal of expanding Jewish enrollment, Drexel University will build a Center for Jewish Life on its West Philadelphia campus.

The project will be funded by a $6 million pledge from philanthropist Raymond G. Perelman.

"Our goal at Drexel is to make the university a greater school of choice for Jewish students from our region and across the nation," Drexel President John A. Fry said in a statement.

The center, scheduled to open in fall 2016, will be named for Perelman. The three-story building will rise on the 100 block of North 34th Street, across from Drexel's dorms and a block from the athletic center.

Providing a social space for Jewish students and their friends and families, the center also will house Hillel and serve as the site for Shabbat services and dinners, Jewish education programs and programs that connect students to Israel. It will include event space for about 100 people, a chapel, meeting rooms, student lounges, offices and a kosher kitchen.

"The continuity of the Jewish people is deeply important to me," Perelman said in a statement. "In John Fry, I recognized a university president who truly wants to make his institution more welcoming to Jewish youth. I was delighted to be able to help support something I deeply care about."

In his previous presidency at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Fry built a Jewish center and the number of Jewish students at the college more than doubled, said Ken Goldman, senior associate vice president in Drexel's office of institututional advancement.

Drexel officials are hopeful for a similar impact. About 8 percent of Drexel students are Jewish, university officials estimate.

"Considering the region of the country we live in, we weren't really realizing our potential in attracting those students," Goldman said.

The planned 14,000-square-foot center will cost about $8 million, and Drexel is raising funds to cover the rest of the project, Goldman said.

The gift from Perelman is his second to Drexel. Two years ago, he offered $5 million to build a plaza, covering a large area of Drexel's open space along 32nd Street, between Market and Chestnut streets. It is expected to be completed soon.


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