Gift to establish Hopkins Jewish center; $1 million to be used to build Hillel facility


Hillel of Greater Baltimore, which provides social, religious and educational services to Jewish college students, has received a $1 million gift from an Ann Arbor, Mich., couple that will be used to build a facility on the Johns Hopkins University campus.

The building, which will go up on the site of an apartment building in the 3100 block of N. Charles St., will be named Smokler Center for Jewish Life at Johns Hopkins, in honor of psychologists Irving and Carol Smokler, who made the contribution.

Irving Smokler and one of his three sons, Kevin, are Hopkins graduates.

The gift, which will create the first building in the Baltimore area to house Hillel's campus services, was announced yesterday at a luncheon at the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith and Community Service Center across from the Hopkins campus.

Neither a date for groundbreaking nor for completion of the building has been established.

Edgar M. Bronfman, chairman of Hillel's international board and head of Seagram Co. Ltd., said the center will advance the organization's mission in a generation when maintaining a Jewish identity requires effort.

"What we're trying really to do is to sell our modern product so that more people will develop pride in who they are and what they stand for," Bronfman said. "The more young people that we can get interested in and knowledgeable of their Judaism, the more chance we have of creating a wonderful, vibrant Jewish society."

The current Hillel program at Hopkins attempts to reach out to students who may have never been involved in Jewish activities.

In addition to traditional religious services and kosher dining, the Hopkins Hillel has an a cappella Jewish singing group, a weekly Israeli dance program and a bi-weekly Hebrew speaking lunch group.

Richard M. Joel, president and international director of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, said yesterday's announcement showed the great strides Baltimore's Jewish community has taken since initiating Hillel campus programs five years ago.

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