Hillel reopens after fire


The line at Hillel’s E. Cafe stretched out the door for lunch on May 3, the day it reopened. Photo by Grace Mamon, ‘22.

Garrett Price

Hillel House reopened its doors May 3, after a fire broke out at the dining venue and center for Jewish life last month.

Students are excited to have the E. Café back.

“Everyone is really happy to be able to have additional options, especially for breakfast,” Audrey Blumenstock, ‘22. “Otherwise, our options are pretty limited.”

The fire took its toll on the house, significantly damaging the floors and ceiling, along with many items in the community kitchen. However, the Hillel community is well on its way to restoring the building to its former glory—and to throwing in a few updates along the way.

Maggie Shapiro Haskett, the director of Jewish life on campus, said that the flooring in the foyer and café has been restored to its former condition, but the sanctuary and the interfaith resource room may have different colored carpets after the renovation.

Additionally, supplies in the community kitchen are being replaced, and Shapiro Haskett said new additions to the kitchen are coming soon.

“We’re exploring ideas for updates to the community kitchen that could make it a better resource for students who keep kosher and for Muslim students who observe halal, but we’re still in the planning stages of that piece,” she said.

Shapiro Haskett said the Hillel community was very lucky, as the efficiency of the fire suppression system and the sprinkler system minimized the damages. Because of this, they were able to bring many valuable items like the Torah and the art collections to a safe place to prevent damage.

“There are so many people who went the extra mile. Folks in Public Safety and Student Affairs did a stellar job of checking in on our Hillel students and Mark Riley, Lynn Rainville, Kyra Swanson and Seth Goodheart dropped everything to work with me to get the Hillel Torah and all of the irreplaceable treasures in the buildings moved to safety,” Shapiro Haskett said.

The quick recovery and restoration of the Hillel House has allowed the community to focus on possible updates. Shapiro Haskett said she has been in close contact with the project manager to begin discussing plans for the future.

“Seeing students lined up out the door last week was such a joy! Having the Hillel House full of noise and life once again feels terrific,” she said. “We’re still not entirely back to 100% thanks to COVID precautions, but the last week has been a wonderful re-minder of how beloved Hillel is.”