The first phase of the construction of an interfaith center in the Leavey Center came to a close last weekend when a new Jewish prayer space, along with a revamped Bulldog Alley which can now be used for Muslim prayers, opened.

The renovations will serve as a temporary space for both the Jewish and Muslim communities until an interfaith center – slated to contain new Jewish and Muslim prayer spaces, along with a Kosher/Halal kitchen and an interfaith chapel – is built in Leavey.

“This is just … phase one,” said Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, of the recent renovations.

According to O’Brien, no timeline has yet been set for the project, and the dates will depend on the university’s ability to finance the project.

The Jewish prayer space, Makóm, moves Jewish gathering space onto campus for the first time. In previous years, Jewish services have been held in a 36th Street townhouse rented by the chaplaincy.

“As a matter of equity, we wanted to give them on-campus space,” O’Brien said.

Samantha Sisskind (SFS ’12), co-president of the Jewish Students Association, thinks that the new space will allow the JSA to establish and strengthen relationships with new students and returning ones who felt distanced from the center of the community.

“I’m sure we are all pleased that we won’t have to trek outside the campus walls every Friday night!” she wrote in an email.

Bulldog Alley, a space that is used by many student groups, was also refurbished over the summer. The newly redone space will now be used for Friday prayers by the Muslim community, while its smaller prayer space in Copley Hall will remain in use for other occasions.

Wardah Athar (COL ’13), vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said the use of Bulldog Alley would better accommodate the large number of undergraduate, graduate and medical center students who attend Friday prayers.

“For Friday prayers, there are so many people who come – we couldn’t fit them all,” she said.

Sisskind said that their new space has also made the JSA and Jewish chaplaincy more ambitious.

“We hope to invite more student groups to join us for Shabbat, or lead our services, as we will have the space to accommodate more guests,” she wrote.

O’Brien said that the new space can accommodate a much larger number of people than the townhouse living room where services were previously held.

“I was delighted at how large it was compared to their old space,” he said.

Correction: Wardah Athar’s name was mistakenly spelled “Afthar” in a previous version of this article.

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