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Juniata College Hillel to Share Synagogue as Student Center

(Posted November 1, 2010)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- The Congregation Agudath Achim has reached agreement with Juniata College to dedicate its facilities in the synagogue on 1009 Washington St. as the Faith Isaacson Student Center for Juniata College Hillel, giving the student group the opportunity to use the synagogue for activities and events and joining the congregation for services when the synagogue is open.

"It's a nice partnership in that our students are befriended by the congregation, and we will be able to use this great building for our events and be able to attend their events," says David Witkovsky, chaplain at Juniata.

"Having a synagogue where we can be completely welcome and can become a part of the larger Huntingdon and State College congregation will create an environment on campus where Jewish life can really grow and provide security and support for Jewish students who wish to attend Juniata."
Michelle Yockelson, a senior from San Clemente, Calif. and Hillel president

"Having a synagogue where we can be completely welcome and can become a part of the larger Huntingdon and State College congregation will create an environment on campus where Jewish life can really grow and provide security and support for Jewish students who wish to attend Juniata," explains Michelle Yockelson, a senior from San Clemente, Calif. and president of the Juniata Hillel group.

Juniata College Hillel is a chapter of the national student organization for Jewish students. The local chapter has been active at Juniata since 2005. Previously, the college was home to the Jewish Students Club up until the 1990s.

Hillel will use the facilities at the synagogue when the building is in use from Rosh Hashanah during the High Holy Days, to Hanukkah (roughly September through December) and for Passover in the spring. There are about 20 active members of Hillel.

While not all of Hillel's members will worship at the synagogue, the Agudath Achim Congregation, which has roughly 60 members, has welcomed all Juniata students to attend.

"Having Hillel involved in the services at Agudath Achim will not only show other Juniata students how dedicated we are to educating others, but it will also show the Huntingdon community our passion for teaching others about Judaism," says Chloe Pott, a 2010 Juniata graduate who served as co-president of Hillel last year and worked on the agreement to share facilities. "I believe that with the addition of the Agudath Achim synagogue into the Juniata community, we will have a strong support system from the synagogue. With this additional support, we will be able to put on more events and celebrations."

Hillel has not yet set a roster of events, but typically Juniata student clubs use their facilities for dinners, social events such as movie nights, service events and other uses. In addition, they also are invited to be part of similar activities with the congregation.

The student center is named for Faith Isaacson, a young girl born in the 1970s to Martin Isaacson, then a Huntingdon businessman. Faith was born with severe handicaps and passed away after six months. Her father never forgot the kindness of Huntingdon businesses and the Huntingdon Jewish community, including taking care of the plot where his daughter is buried. Isaacson, who had made donations to the congregation previously, read in the synagogue newsletter that the synagogue was trying to fund the use of the building by Juniata students.

He made a donation to the congregation, and shortly thereafter the Agudath Achim congregation began working on an agreement to share facilities with Hillel at Juniata College.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.