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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life closes for renovations

Vanderbilt Hillel will move their programming to the Recreation and Wellness Facility, while Grins Vegetarian Café will close during renovations.
Alex Venero
The Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life before renovations, as photographed on May 30, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Alex Venero)

The Ben Schulman Center for Jewish Life, which houses Vanderbilt Hillel and Grins Vegetarian Café, closed for renovations on March 1 with a stated goal of reopening on Aug. 1, in time for the beginning of the Fall 2024 semester. Vanderbilt Hillel will temporarily relocate to the Recreation and Wellness Center and various reserved locations around campus for Shabbat services and other programming.

In an email to The Hustler, Campus Dining said vegetarian options are available at all campus dining halls, and students who need help navigating vegetarian choices can contact the campus dietitian for support.

Saksham Saksena, a junior, expressed disappointment in Grins’ closing and hopes for an alternative space where the café can continue to serve the community.

“I’m vegetarian, and Grins was my usual lunch spot as it has some of the best vegetarian food on campus,” Saksena said. “I wish there was a way for Vanderbilt and Grins to work together to temporarily relocate the restaurant instead of closing it until next academic year.”

Vanderbilt Hillel Head of First-Year Engagement Sydney Grossman, a sophomore, said plans to renovate the Schulman Center have been in the works for years. Vanderbilt built the Center in 2001, and as time progressed, ideas for renovations came into conversation.

Grossman noted the need for renovations in the kitchen, which must be constructed to accommodate a kosher diet for Hillel programming.

“The biggest thing has been the kitchen because it’s really important for us to have our own kitchen that is kosher,” Grossman said. “For our Shabbat dinner experience, having a kosher kitchen is really important for our catering staff and our team.”

Grossman said the Rec Center was the only other space available, though noted issues with the Rec’s lack of privacy due to its prevalence of windows, which she compared to a “fishbowl.” She believes students will need a safe space to process and engage in tough discussions with Hillel staff, which she finds is difficult to do when windows are abundant.

Hillel staff will hold designated hours at various locations around campus to talk with students, including at Rand Dining Center and the Commons Center. Grossman said these hours will ensure students have a space to go that is closer and more accessible than the Rec Center if they need to discuss any topic with a staff member.

Programming and activities will occur based on where most students can easily attend these programs, according to Hillel Executive Director Ari Dubin.

“We’re still doing the same stuff that we were doing before,” Dubin said. “We’re using this as an opportunity to explore and experiment with different setups and different ways of connecting to students, and we will do that with Shabbat and everything else, as well.”

Jewish Voice for Peace at Vanderbilt has not been able to utilize the Schulman Center for its programming due to its views on Israel and Hillel’s policies that prohibit collaborations with any organizations that criticize “Israel’s ongoing oppression and genocide of Palestinians,” according to a statement from JVP to The Hustler.

“Nonetheless, we remain hopeful that once the renovations are complete, the Ben Schulman Center can become a place of culture and community for all Jews, not just those who support Israel,” JVP’s statement reads.

Grossman added that she believes the temporary loss of the Schulman Center will be hard for members of the Jewish community, given the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

“Right now with everything going on in the world and everything going on on this campus, it’s really difficult to have our physical space taken away, but I think our community is coming together in a way that we never have before,” Grossman said. “This is only emphasizing the strength of that immunity through that tough transition to a location that we’re not familiar with.”

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About the Contributors
Zach Joseph
Zach Joseph, Senior Staff Writer
Zach Joseph ('25) is from Chicago, Ill., and is majoring in law, history and society with a minor in Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. He previously served as a staff writer for the News section. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can find him going for a run around campus or passionately watching soccer games. You can contact him at [email protected].
Alex Venero
Alex Venero, Former Multimedia Director
Alex Venero (‘23) is from Rumson, NJ. She is majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in World Politics. When not shooting for The Hustler, she can be found at almost any Vanderbilt Athletics event or exploring the food and coffee of Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].    
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