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A Look Inside Hillel 818's Grand Opening Shabbat

November 4, 2022 was a momentous day for Hillel 818. After three years of construction, delays, and a global pandemic that shut down the world, Hillel 818 was finally able to host our first event at our newly renovated building.

Current students, alumni, the Hillel 818 Board of Directors, and Hillel 818 staff all gathered for the very first Shabbat and dinner at the renovated building on Plummer Street. When asked about the feeling of being able to finally hold an event in the building, Executive Director Matt Baram said, “Our first shabbat in the new building is the realization of a dream. Hillel 818 serves one of the biggest Jewish populations in the world, and we serve one of the best Jewish populations in the world, and they deserve a facility that will aid in the fulfillment of their Jewish needs, wants and desires. This is a momentous day for Hillel 818 and for the LA Jewish community.”

Our students and alumni felt elated to finally be able to be in the new building after all this time, even if the building isn’t quite done yet. Current student Adam Rubin said, “I love it! It’s a lot more spacious and a lot more Jewish in a sense; there’s a lot more of a Jewish feel to it. It feels very well renovated and looks like it’s going to become a very welcoming place.” Current student and member of the SAEPi sorority Rachel Carrigan was filled with enthusiasm when asked how she felt about the new building, saying, “This building is absolutely amazing! It’s bigger and better than I thought it would ever be and I just can’t wait to see all the amazing things that Hillel is going to do with this space. There’s just so much space, so much space for us to do awesome things and I’m just really excited for it.”

Alumna Nima Pedoim felt nostalgic seeing the building’s transformation, saying, “It was interesting seeing the building change so much. It was a relief to see people I haven't seen in a while. It was cool to see some things stay the same and also the changes.” Fellow alum Adam Cohen agreed with that sentiment, saying, “It felt great, all these college memories came flooding back. I loved it! It was super awesome to see how things were coming along and there was such a strong sense of community.”

This Shabbat and dinner was also Hillel 818’s chance to honor the man who was the lead donor for our building project: Joe Pedott. A businessman and philanthropist, Joe has helped other Hillels update their buildings over the years and shared his enthusiasm for Hillel and our students, telling them in a speech that night how he wants to make sure that Hillel 818 will always be able to provide them with any needs they might have, from food to clothing and beyond. He inspired those present, with alum Adam Cohen saying, “It was great I got to hear Joe speak - it was very heartfelt and warming to listen to him speak about why he supports Hillel as well.”

While we may not be running programming out of the building for students until next semester as we finish the renovation and move in, our students have big visions for what can be done in this new space. Rachel Carrigan in particular has ideas, telling us some of those starting with, “Of course bigger Shabbats with more people and other programs and events I think will be really fun because we can do more. Also SAEPi meetings potentially, getting to have our Jewish sorority having our little home spot will be really amazing and to have a little place to call our own. We appreciate Hillel and everything they do for our sorority so I think it’ll be really awesome.”

This new space means the Hillel 818 will finally have a permanent home to foster the collegiate Jewish community of the San Fernando Valley. Current Board Chair Karmi Monsher shared with us her hopes for this new era of Hillel 818, saying, “This new building will bring so much joy to our Hillel 818 students. They will finally have their home to gather, study, have fun and eat! We look forward to welcoming community members to our new home to experience interesting speakers, art exhibitions and much more. This will be a place for all to enjoy and to learn the value of investing in our Jewish future.”

Our students already feel the community and can’t wait for it to grow even stronger under our new roof. Valerie Perlovskaya said when asked about how Hillel 818 has impacted her college experience, “I found a community, I found friends. I was able to know that I have a place I’m always welcome at.” Our alumni felt the same way, with alumna Sharona Schnall telling us, “[Hillel 818] helped me connect with some of my closest friends and it also gave me a safe space to enjoy being Jewish. It feels surreal, I haven't seen so many of these people since before the pandemic and it's shocking but in a good way.”

While we may not be in the building fully yet, we will begin moving in soon! Keep an eye out for more information about our Homecoming celebration in December.

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