The philanthropic legacy of Eva and Arie Halpern, whose family honored their memory by naming the nearly completed 40,000-square-foot Hillel House at Rutgers University in their memory, was honored yesterday at the campus organization’s gala, which drew a record 350 guests. The gala also honored Jewish community leaders Terri and Michael Rosenberg, Bethany Mandel, Jill and Eric Lavitsky, and five “Student Rising Stars,” including Esti Mellul 2016 of Teaneck.
The Brenner, Halpern, Paradis, Savran, and Stein families, along with Audrey and Zygi Wilf and Jane and Mark Wilf, were co-chairs.
As a freshman, Esti Mellul was her year’s representative to the Orthodox community’s board at Hillel. Her goal was strengthening the Jewish community, with her passion for Jewish culture, contributions, and values. She worked on activities for Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Hazikaron and rallied the Jewish community during periods of increased terrorist activity in Israel. In her junior year, she created and led a women’s group that gave its members the chance to connect to each other and to pray for those who were sick, recite psalms, and sing. The group met on Friday evenings before Shabbat services.
She also was a member of Ko HaLayla, Rutgers’s premier Jewish a capella group, where she served as assistant music director for two semesters. She and two co-members, Sarah Harpaz and Esther Simanovich, created Shem Productions, a theater group that allows students of all backgrounds to engage in theater without compromising their religious beliefs. The group began during her senior year, produced two successful shows and now is preparing for the upcoming season.
Rutgers Hillel is a beneficiary of the many Jewish federations in New Jersey, including the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and gets support as well from the State Association of Jewish Federations.