Ralph Taber envisions the Klehr Center for Jewish Life becoming a gathering place for Jewish people from the College and the community.
Located at the corner of College Avenue and West New Street, The Klehr Center for Jewish Life opened Friday, Oct. 24, during a dedication ceremony. Two open houses are planned for students, on Wed., Nov. 5, from 8 to 10 p.m., and for College faculty, staff and visitors on Thu., Nov. 6, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Taber, associate dean of Franklin & Marshall College and director of the Klehr Center, said he could see “students coming and going, interfaith dialogues, book club meetings, lectures, films. I want it to be an active, vibrant place, eventually a center for Jewish life not just at F&M, but in Lancaster itself.”
The 6,500-square-foot, two-story building, which cost about $2 million to build, offers a bright and open space with a large living room and lounge area and a multipurpose room that can seat 60 for meals or 90 for lectures. There is an expansive kosher kitchen, a seminar room and study spaces, as well as a library and a sanctuary.
The old Hillel House was torn down to make room for the Klehr Center, which will be home for F&M Hillel, an organization dedicated to preserving Jewish culture on campus.
The Klehr Center was made possible by the support of Susan Kline Klehr ’73 and Leonard Klehr, Esq., ’72. Susan Kline Klehr is an F&M trustee and is president of Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. Leonard Klehr is a member of the College’s Leadership Council.
In a recent interview with Franklin & Marshall Magazine, Susan Kline Klehr said she saw the construction of the Jewish Center as more than just a “bigger house for Hillel.” For her, it is symbolic of the College’s commitment to programs for all kinds of students.
“You see these three houses on College Avenue—the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House, the Joseph International Center and now the Jewish life center—all different students and faculty, different communities able to come together,” she says. “This is a great opportunity for the College to offer something to students interested in an enriched Jewish life.”
Once the Klehr Center is open, the faculty of the Judaic Studies Program will hold classes in the seminar room.
Annette Aronowicz, chair of the Judaic Studies program and the Robert F. & Patricia G. Ross Weis Chair in Judaic Studies, remarked that she was taken with the beauty of the Klehr Center, and suggested the center would mean a “renewal and strengthening of Jewish life on campus. It is already strong, but this setting promises it will become even more so.”
The Judaic Studies program, begun in the early 1990s, offers courses in a wide variety of historical, cultural and religious subjects and in Hebrew language. Students can choose to minor or to create a joint major or special-studies major. Two faculty members who teach exclusively in Judaic Studies are joined by a number of faculty members who contribute individual courses.