The Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 29, 2001
January 29, 2001
VOL. 30, NO. 19


Hopkins Hillel Unveils Plans for New Smokler Center

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Hopkins Hillel has recently unveiled plans for the new Smokler Center for Jewish Life, a four-level, 19,000-square-foot building to be located at 3109 N. Charles St. The facility, whose construction is slated to begin in the spring, will house Hillel offices and activities.

The Smokler Center will become the first permanent home for Hillel, which currently resides in second-floor offices at 3301 N. Charles St. and uses campus facilities for meetings and social functions. Hillel coordinates programming and activities for the school's estimated 800 Jewish students.

The center's brick and precast stone exterior reflects the architecture of Charles Village.

The Smokler Center, scheduled for completion in fall of 2002, will be owned by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The building is named for Hopkins alumnus Irving Smokler and his wife, Carol, both psychologists, who were catalysts in the project. The Smoklers pledged the lead gift of $1 million toward the $6 million building fund, part of the overall Campaign for Hopkins Hillel--an effort to raise $15 million to build, furnish, staff and maintain the new facility. The campaign is a project of Hillel of Greater Baltimore.

The structure--designed by Cass Gottlieb of Kann & Associates, in association with Gary King of King Design--will have a brick and precast stone exterior, "in keeping with the architecture of Charles Village and the Homewood campus," Gottlieb says. Notable exterior features include a second-floor garden terrace and a predominantly glass-sheathed library loft, which crowns the facility.

"We wanted a building that would complement the existing streetscape, while on the other hand make its own significant statement," Gottlieb says. "For the students, I feel this is a warm and exciting building they will want to come to and spend time in."

Interior spaces include a student activities office, staff offices, lounges, conference rooms, study center, multipurpose room, dining commons and library. Gottlieb describes the interior as bright, open and abounding in "options." The lower level will contain two kitchens, one for meat and one for dairy, to be used for Sabbath and holiday dinners.

Rabbi Joseph Menashe, director of Hopkins Hillel, says the Smokler Center will be "the central address and the nerve center for Jewish activity."

"The Smokler Center will enable students to find comfortable and interesting spaces to gather for study, learning, programming and just hanging out. Our hope is that all Hopkins students will feel welcome to utilize this wonderful space," Menashe says. "The building is of paramount importance and at the same time, by itself, worthless. Without the regular student activity, the center is only a building."

The 3109 N. Charles St. lot, which sits across Charles Street from the Baltimore Museum of Art and adjacent to the Homewood Friends Meeting house, is currently occupied by a 10-unit apartment building, which is scheduled for demolition.