Jewish center proposal pitched to city Planning Commission

Contact Reporterwwright@vagazette.com

Jewish students attending the College of William and Mary may soon have a center to help them adjust to life on campus.

Representatives from the William and Mary Real Estate Foundation have submitted plans to the city for the Shenkman Jewish Center.

The building is slated to be at Jamestown Road and Cary Street, across from W&M. It will be about 3,000 square feet and will have two stories.

Commission members discussed the plans during Wednesday’s meeting.

Foundation representatives said in July that they tailored building plans around the preferences from its donors, Mark and Rosalind Shenkman.

Three planning commissioners with ties to the College of William and Mary recused themselves from any discussion on the center to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Commissioner Justin Shawler is a student at the college’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science and receives a stipend.

Sarah Stafford and Elaine McBeth are professors at the college.

Their recusals prevented the commissioners from having a quorum, so they could not formally recommend the project to City Council.

Sam Jones, the college's senior vice president for finance and administration, said in July there will be a place for a rabbi in the building, and that the school envisions it as a place where Jewish students and staff can spend leisure time.

"This facility is meant to serve a specific population," he said at the board's July 11 meeting.

Commissioner Jeffrey Klee had previously criticized the proposal.

He had praise for the latest iteration, which he said is more in line for a building design in that part of the city.

“This is a fine proposal,” Klee said. “Were I able to act on this, I would have voted to approve it.”

City Council will make the final decision on the center’s plans at a future meeting.

Wright can be reached by phone at 757-345-2343.

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