Crowd at Hillel
Community leaders in the courtyard of the new Hillel center. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Top lawmakers and Jewish community leaders celebrated the official opening Sunday of a Hillel center adjacent to UC San Diego following 23 years of struggle.

The $18.7 million Beverly and Joseph Glickman Hillel Center, built on previously vacant land across La Jolla Village Drive from the campus, was first used by students for a traditional Shabbat dinner on Friday night.

Mayor Todd Gloria celebrates the opening.

The 6,500-square-foot center is designed to meld with the surrounding community — encompassing two single-story buildings and one two-story structure, all clustered around a central courtyard.

The center will serve the student community by hosting Jewish holiday experiences, Jewish learning, and related activities. It is in walking distance from the campus near similar centers for Lutheran, Catholic and Mormon students.

“Days like today have meaning far beyond what will go on inside this building,” said Mayor Todd Gloria at the opening.

He noted that the center is located in a neighborhood that once discriminated against Jews and said the Jewish community at UC San Diego “is final getting its due after 23 years.”

In 2000, Hillel of San Diego was awarded rights to purchase the single-acre plot from the city to build the center. Some residents long opposed the project, but Hillel worked with the city and community to make changes, and gained unanimous approval from the City Council in 2017. That was followed by four years of legal battles before construction could begin.

Gloria was joined by Reps. Sara Jacobs and Scott Peters, Councilmember Joe LaCava, Assemblymember Chris Ward and UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.

Peters, who was on the City Council when the land was sold, said he appreciated the center as a symbol of tolerance amid an “alarming rise in antisemitism.”

He said the facility is “something not just this community, but the entire city needs.”

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.