U-Va. Hillel to overhaul facility

The Brody Jewish Center at the University of Virginia. Photo courtesy of BRW Architects.

The Brody Jewish Center, the hub for Jewish life at the University of Virginia, is embarking on a renovation and fundraising campaign this year, transforming its 1914 building.

The plans for the campus Hillel include a new layout for the building’s student space, converting office space into group study lounges, a library, a reading room and a student common area with personal study areas. In addition, an apartment will be constructed on the building’s second floor, whose resident can supervise after-hours activities at the center. A fundraising campaign has already collected $1.95 million of the $3 million needed for construction and an endowment for future maintenance on the property, according to a press release.

Student groups ranging from the religiously focused to the social justice oriented use the space, according to Fred Cohen, president of the board.

“There are six or seven student groups that are very active,” he said. “So if students want to study late or hang out, we’ll have the ability to make that possible.”


During the 2016-17 school year, the Brody Center reported serving 712 undergraduate students at least once. Cohen said that number is growing and represents an high proportion of the Jewish student population. Last year, the Brody Center was awarded Hillel International’s Phillip H. and Susan Rudd Cohen Outstanding Campus Award.

The campaign is the second capital improvement push in a decade. The last campaign, which ended in 2011, included a 10,000-square foot addition to the building. Cohen, who graduated from U-Va. in 2011, said the new space attracted more users to the center. So Hillel leaders began to consider how to reconfigure the original building to student needs.

“We started asking, what would we want given how we use the space on a day to day basis?” Cohen said. “We have this house, so let’s work together to build it into something a little more personal, somewhere our students and staff can really make a home.”

Cohen said the plan is to break ground in May and finish construction by January 2019.

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