CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA The area in Leavey Center between Capital One bank and Cosi is slated to serve as a temporary prayer space next fall for the Jewish community on campus.
CHRIS BIEN/THE HOYA
The area in Leavey Center between Capital One bank and Cosi is slated to serve as a temporary prayer space next fall for the Jewish community on campus.

The Office of Campus Ministry will expand on-campus worship space in an attempt to meet the growing needs of the university’s religious communities.

Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., the executive director of Campus Ministry, said Thursday that his office is preparing to build a centralized worship area in the Leavey Center. The space will include a Muslim prayer room, a Jewish sacred space, an interfaith prayer room, a welcoming area and a Kosher/Hillel kitchen.

According to O’Brien, the plans are designed to compensate for a lack of worship space, a perennial problem for the Jewish and Muslim communities on campus.

“One of the reasons why the need is more pressing is because the numbers of Jewish and Muslim students who practice their faith is increasing,” he said. “So, the spaces are becoming more crowded.”

Though the renovation of the Leavey Center is a long-term project, O’Brien said that some changes will be made quickly.

For next fall, the administration has agreed to incorporate a Jewish prayer space into the floor plan of the Leavey Center between Capital One bank and Cosi. The Jewish Student Association will then drop the lease on the group’s current location, a townhouse on 36th Street.

To reconcile the more immediate needs of Muslim students, Campus Ministry and the Office of Student Affairs are teaming up to refurbish Bulldog Alley. The Muslim community will continue to utilize the prayer room in Copley Hall.

The university examined the status of campus worship space as part of the Student Space Report, a general review of space on campus that was released in the spring of 2010. Ideas for the renovation were drafted over the past year and a half through discussions with on-campus organizations, students and religious leaders.

“With the addition of the science building, the Leavey Center will become even more of a hub of student activity,” O’Brien said. “To have sacred spaces in that center emphasizes how important our religious mission is at this university.”

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, the Jewish Student Association Board expressed its excitement about the congregation’s relocation.

“We are looking forward to working closely with Campus Ministry and other university offices to build a strong Jewish community at Georgetown,” the organization said.

For a number of years, the Jewish Chaplaincy has rented a townhouse on 36th Street to provide Jewish students a place for prayer. Until the current academic year, the group had rented this residence without financial support from the university.

Georgetown’s Muslim Ministry currently finds its home in a sub-basement room of Copley Hall, where five congregational prayers are offered every day. Friday prayer is available to Muslim students in Leavey Center’s Bulldog Alley, which usually serves as a recreational area for students.

Jeff Morshed (SFS ’11), a Muslim student, said that he thinks the future move to the Leavey Center is a step in the right direction for the university and for its Muslim community.

“At the minimum, it indicates from the university that they are interested in pluralism. It really shows the multi-religious feeling that Georgetown wants to provide,” Morshed said. “It definitely will add exposure to the Muslim community at Georgetown.”

According to O’Brien, Campus Ministry hopes that these new accommodations and amenities will inspire more widespread religious involvement on the Hilltop.

“Our job is, for those who identify with a religion, to encourage and to attract them to practice their faith more,” he said. “And having suitable, attractive prayer space is what we need.”

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