New Jewish Prayer Space Opens on Campus
September 14, 2011 – Members of the Georgetown community gathered Tuesday for the dedication of a new Jewish prayer space in the Leavey Center.
The Jewish chaplaincy’s new community space, called “Makóm: A Jewish Gathering Space,” will provide students, faculty and staff with an on-campus location to pray, gather and learn together as a community.
Rabbi Rachel Gartner, who became director of the Jewish chaplaincy last month, explains that Makóm means “place” in Hebrew.
The new worship area is meant to be “an inviting place for the ordinary and sacred to mix and mingle – a place where the ordinary becomes sacred because it is experienced and reflected upon in community,” she said.
“We call this place Makóm because we hope it is inviting for Jewish community members and our friends of all interests and backgrounds,” Gartner added, “a place where encountering the sacred becomes, if not ordinary, then a regular part of daily life.”
Gartner said the new space provides closer proximity and a more welcoming community area than the previous location in the Jewish Students Association (JSA) townhouse on 36th St.
Attendance at weekly Shabbat services is stronger this year in the Makóm.
“We’re really excited about not having to leave campus,” said Samantha Sisskind (SFS’12), co-president of the JSA. “It’s wonderful having [the space] here. It opens services up to a wide variety of students now that they can find our services.”
Funded by the university, Makóm will serve as an interim location until a larger interfaith center, containing Jewish and Muslim prayer spaces, a Kosher/Halal kitchen and an interfaith chapel, is built in the Leavey Center.
Fundraising is underway and donations from alumni, parents are friends are expected to make the center possible.
Another New Beginning
The night also served as a formal welcome for Gartner, who succeeded Rabbi Harold White. The latter rabbi spent more than 40 years as the university’s Jewish chaplaincy director.
Gartner came to Georgetown after serving as rabbi and executive director of the Hillel chapter at Miami University of Ohio.
“I am humbled and honored to be here and to be welcomed in such a glorious way,” Gartner said. “I feel overwhelmed with abundance with this new position, remarkable students [and] fantastic colleagues.”