In early 2014, the Braman and Miller families joined forces in a philanthropic effort to transform the Jewish community at the University of Miami with a $2.5 million gift designated to UM Hillel. More than a year later, Hillel announced that the Braman Miller Center for Jewish Life, which is currently undergoing construction and renovation, will be open to the public in early November, with the official dedication of the building taking place on Dec. 9.
Since construction officially began in October 2014, the building has undergone a significant makeover.
“We had to do a complete gut to the building with all new wiring and plumbing while maintaining the integrity of the outside structure,” Hillel’s assistant director Robyn Fisher said.
Aside from having the opportunity to see a rendering of the upcoming center on the UM website, most students have been left in the dark about the specific changes to the building, but as the overseer of all programming and engagement activities on campus, Fisher went over the copious details of Hillel’s drastic renovation.
“We did add a floor and reconfigured the interior spaces,” Fisher said. “The courtyard will be the heart of our little building where we will have a kosher café, which is unnamed at the moment.”
She also mentioned how the University of Miami and Chartwells have agreed to include the cafe in the dining dollar program, which will be great news for those who are currently on a university meal plan and wish to enjoy what Fisher called “top-notch, healthy, organic food.”
Out of all the changes that would enhance the social environment at Hillel, one of the most notable is a gaming area with a pool table, television and other games.
For those who wish to have a more laid-back experience, there will also be plenty of hangout space for students to come to their “home away from home,” as Fisher said. They will have the options to relax, study, meet new friends, or reconnect with the old ones.
“What has really changed is the concept,” said Igor Khokhlov, the current executive director who recently joined Hillel’s staff. “It’s no longer just a synagogue on campus. Instead, the Hillel Braman Center will become a hub for innovation, self-exploration and celebration of Jewish Life. The important part is that the decision behind using this new center is to make sure that it is a very welcome building and well-integrated within the diverse community at UM.”
Though the center’s purpose is to transform social opportunities for the Jewish community, Fisher hopes the building will be a resource for everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation.
“We’re not just building it for the Jewish community,” Fisher said. “We’re building it for the entire university so that we could all enjoy the benefits that this beautiful, state-of-the-art building brings to the campus … the place is welcome for everybody.”
Reflecting UM’s culturally inclusive atmosphere, the center will serve to unite students from various backgrounds and beliefs.
“Jewish students have non-Jewish friends,” Khokhlov added. “They’ll bring them with them, so there will be natural dialogue and potential partnerships between Jewish and non-Jewish students, whether it be in regards to student organizations or just the personal level. I’m very excited about that.”
Assistant Director Robyn Fisher and Executive Director Igor Khokhlov will attend the official dedication ceremony on Dec. 9, along with President Julio Frenk.