The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Vanderbilt Hillel Celebrates the Start of its Building Renovation with a Groundbreaking Event

Vanderbilt Hillel donors and supporters receive gifts from Vanderbilt Hillel at Groundbreaking Event. (Left to Right): John Hassenfeld, Heidi Hassenfeld, Alyssa Hassenfeld, Ethan Hassenfeld, Sylvia Shepard, Nathan Appelbaum (Vanderbilt student), Goldie Shepard, Steve Goodwin, Karen Schulman, and Ari Dubin. Photo Credit: Emily Allen

To celebrate the start of construction on its building renovation, Vanderbilt Hillel hosted a groundbreaking on February 25. The event began with delicious appetizers and drinks, catered by Goldie Shepard, followed by a formal celebration ceremony. Ari Dubin, executive director of Vanderbilt Hillel, welcomed everyone and expressed his appreciation for the Schulman Foundation and Hillel’s generous donors. He explained that because Vanderbilt Hillel has surpassed its initial fundraising goal, the organization is looking to make additional improvements such as renovating the back patio to create an outside program space. Steve Goodwin and Karen Schulman spoke on behalf of the Schulman Foundation and reflected on the dream of Ben Schulman in making the Vanderbilt Hillel building a reality. 

Alyssa Hassenfeld, Secretary of the Hillel Board of Directors, and Hillel alumna, expressed appreciation on behalf of the board to the generous donors, volunteers, and staff for making this renovation a reality. 

The ceremony continued with Nathan Appelbaum, student board president, giving a short sermon from the week’s Torah portion explaining how it reflects the day’s event, and introduced the Jewish Life Committee (JLC). The JLC led everyone in prayer and song and celebrated the transition of Vanderbilt Hillel’s Torah scrolls from the Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life to its new home at the Student Recreation Center. Recognition gifts, engraved hammers, were given out as a thank you to donors and supporters. The ceremony ended with event attendees each having a chance to break down a selected wall with a sledgehammer.  

For the last year and a half, Vanderbilt Hillel has been fundraising for its 20th Anniversary Campaign. The building is now in need of upgrades in security, the meat kitchen, and office and programmatic spaces. Thanks to a large grant from the Benjamin D. and Ruby G. Schulman Foundation and gifts from generous Kitchen Naming and 20th Anniversary donors, Vanderbilt Hillel has raised over 2 million dollars for the renovation.  

Many Vanderbilt Hillel stakeholders are excited about the project. The students are looking forward to the upgraded programmatic spaces, especially Ethan Sherman, Class of 2024, who commented, “I’m excited for the new building. It should be a nicer, safer place for Jewish students on campus. All my favorite spaces in the building will be improved, so all the things I love about the building future students will continue to enjoy.” 

The security upgrades are an essential part of the 20th Anniversary campaign. Marvin and Sonya Slott, parents of a current Vanderbilt student, are looking forward to seeing the security changes. “Thank you for your strong commitment and dedication to making Hillel a safe environment. We are excited to see the enhancements to security and safety.” 

Vanderbilt Hillel is continuing to accept donations towards the 20th Anniversary Campaign. For more information, please contact Shannon Small, Development Director, at 

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