Elon Hillel’s new space to increase social and community engagement

Elon Hillel broke ground for their new pavilion in a ceremony during Family Weekend.

Last year, Eric and Lori Sklut P’14 asked a compelling question: “If Elon Hillel could wave a magic wand and create something new, exciting and impactful for students, what would it be?”

The resounding answer was a pavilion in the Hillel “Outback,” also known as the backyard, for year-round festive gatherings, fun programs, Shabbat dinners, High Holiday services, Passover seders and interactive classes. 

Hillel students members at the Hillel Pavilion groundbreaking event.
Hillel students members at the Hillel Pavilion Ceremonial Groundbreaking event on Sept. 29, 2023.

Hillel at Elon is dynamic, student-run and student-centered and is open to all Jewish students from all backgrounds, identities and levels of observance.  Elon Hillel offers social, cultural, educational, religious and spiritual tikkum olam (community service). It also provides Israel-related programs that are designed and planned by students, with staff mentorship and support. Jewish Life, one of the communities under the umbrella of the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, supports and mentors Elon Hillel.

Members took the symbolic first step to bring the pavilion project into reality, as several administrators, staff, students, donors and other stakeholders moved into place to shovel at the Hillel groundbreaking of the pavilion on Friday, Sept. 29.

This project is a collaboration between Elon Hillel, University Advancement and the Planning, Design, and Construction Management team, with support from the Jewish Life Advisory Council (JLAC).

“By working collaboratively, we are creating another space on Elon’s campus where we can gather and foster the sense of community that Elon is known for,” President Connie Ledoux Book said during her remarks at the event.

“This pavilion will serve practical purposes by providing much-needed usable space and replacing the tent we rent every year. Even more, it will create an outdoor, ‘hamish,’ campy, and very special place for students to gather, pray, celebrate, learn and socialize,” Betsy Polk, Director of Jewish Life, said.

Students also shared Polk’s excitement about the potential impact of the space

Attendees at the Hillel Pavilion Ceremonial Groundbreaking event on Sept. 29, 2023.
Attendees at the Hillel Pavilion Ceremonial Groundbreaking event on Sept. 29, 2023.

“As a student who loves attending the events thrown in our Hillel backyard, aka ‘the Outback,’ and having planned some myself, I am so excited that the pavilion is starting to become a reality today. It will be such a great place to hold fun events, and maybe light the candles on Shabbat without the candles going out from the wind, because I have had a lot of experience with that,” Rebecca Prisand ’25, co-chair of Religious Education on the Hillel Student Executive Board, said during the groundbreaking event.

Jeremy Lazoff ’24, co-president of the Hillel Student Executive Board, had a similar sentiment.

“Like many seniors involved in Hillel, I have always dreamed of an outdoor space for holiday gatherings, learning programs, social events, and simply a roomier space to hang out in on a nice day,” Lazoff said. “I’ve loved sharing ideas about the pavilion and being part of this process. I am so excited that this is being done while I and fellow seniors are here at Elon, and I am looking forward to enjoying it during my final semester!”

Donors who have contributed to beginning the project include Eric and Lori Sklut P’14, Steve and Bonnie Spiegle GP‘23, GP‘26, and two anonymous families.

Construction is anticipated to begin in November and to be completed in January.