Hillel has a home but no house.
Hillel, UT's Jewish Life organization, once operated out of a house on Terrace Avenue, similar to the ministry houses lining Melrose Avenue widely known as Church Row.
But in 2004 the house was given to the university due to costly structural renovations that were needed to keep the house livable.
Deborah Oleshansky, director of Hillel, said her group's budget comes almost entirely from the Knoxville Jewish Alliance, supplemented by donations from the Nashville Jewish Federation, parents and Jewish alumni.
"When the community was supporting the house, it was really difficult, and that's part of why they gave it up," Oleshansky said. "It was just too much, and it financially didn't make sense anymore."
Prior to its sale, the organization's house was privately owned.
"All of the buildings that are related to a particular religion or church are not owned by the university," said Jennifer Richter, associate director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. "I don't know the history, but this area used to be a neighborhood of nothing but private homes.
"I suspect those homes were purchased by each particular group quite some time ago, and they've been there ever since."
Just as a physical space encourages solidarity and community for other faiths, Hillel board member Andrew Vogel admitted he believes a space on campus would benefit UT's Jewish community.
"Even if there was just an office," Vogel said, "then people touring or people with an interest in wanting to learn about Hillel could just go in and talk to someone."
For social gatherings, Hillel currently uses space in the International House, the University Center or community members' houses.
The organization often hosts Sunday morning bagels in Vol Hall or other housing common areas. Connections with local synagogues also allow interested students to access a ride network to attend services.
"In Jewish tradition, the day of rest is Friday night to Saturday night," Oleshansky said. "So, us being able to use the I-House generally is great because they don't do their own programming, and that's exactly the time we need it so it's worked out to be a win-win. Pretty much whenever we want to do a Friday night dinner there, we can arrange it."
With only 50 members, the size of UT Hillel poses challenges in securing funding.
"I think the easy answer would be to have that option of kosher meals or to be given more funding for us to do more," Vogel said. "But to take the needs of probably 10 to 20 students on campus, I don't think that's really a huge priority."
At the University of Maryland, Hillel serves kosher meals to an average of 300 attendees per meal. As UT has begun work to recruit more students from the Northeast, Oleshansky has been working with the Office of Admissions to help advise them in the needs of the Jewish community they are attempting to draw in.
"They're not going to be able to recruit those students if those services aren't available," Oleshansky said. "It's a catch-22. You can't get the services until you get enough students. You can't get enough students until you have the services.
"It's a very difficult conundrum, but if they're committed to getting the students from the Northeast, they're going to need to help us to make sure we can provide the services."
However, Oleshansky chooses to think of the lack of facilities as a benefit rather than a disadvantage.
"From what I understand, the students that lived there sort of became like a clique where only friends of theirs felt comfortable being in the house," Oleshansky said. "Now, it's really open, so everybody can be welcome."
While Hillel would appreciate UT's help in marketing and support, there is a larger point Oleshansky hopes can help all minority communities.
"The more they promote diversity on campus," Oleshansky said, "the better it is for all of us who are minorities here."