On Thursday, Hillel celebrated becoming the first campus building to introduce a gender-neutral restroom.
The celebration took place on the third floor of Steinhardt Hall, where Hillel student leaders cut a red bow on the door to a single-stalled bathroom containing both a toilet and a urinal. Rabbi Mike Uram, executive director of Penn Hillel, Erin Cross, the senior associate director of Penn’s LGBT Center, and College senior Katie Hartman, student president of Penn Hillel addressed the events’ attendees.
Uram oened with an anecdote in which he described a conflict between two Jewish sages, Shammai and Hillel. The story explained the importance of openness and inclusion in the Jewish religion.
“We don’t meet people and have a measuring stick where we measure whether or not they are worth it for us, whether they are welcome, whether they meet our standards. So that’s why we have a bathroom now that is for anybody for single use, whether it is someone who is male, or female or transgender or for any other reason, medical, personal, or otherwise without having to ask, without having to ask for some kind of accommodation can have a private space so that we don’t have to measure them and they don’t have to feel measured. So it’s a great honor to express those values in physical ways as well,” Uram said.
Cross expressed how the LGBT Center’s values aligned with Hillel’s commitment to not judging others.
Hartman shared the words of a gender non-binary student who did not wish to be identified and could not attend the event because of an exam. The student expressed their profound appreciation for the bathroom and praised Hillel for becoming a safer and more inclusive space, an environment that contributed to their frequent trips to Hillel.
The bathroom door locks on the outside, and a sign listed adjacent to the door lists the bathroom as a baby changing station.
Current and former Hillel student leaders from religious and cultural groups convened earlier in the semester to decide on how best to add the restroom. College senior Aaron Mandelbaum and participant in the deliberations, said the third floor was chosen because that restroom contains a single stall. He also noted the group’s decision to include both a toilet and a urinal in the restroom as well as a wastebasket.
Enginnering Junior Maddie Gelfand, Hillel communications co-chair, said the bathroom is a nod to Hillel's mission. “Hillel’s job is to be inclusive for all kinds of Jews on campus and here’s a step towards reaching everyone.”
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