MAINTAINING A STRONG JEWISH CONNECTION FOR THEIR COLLEGE STUDENTS IS IMPORTANT FOR MANY JEWISH FAMILIES. FIRST YEAR COLLEGE STUDENTS WILL BE TESTING THEIR INDEPENDENCE AND MEETING NEW PEOPLE. WHILE THEY MAY EXPLORE DIVERSE FRIENDSHIPS, THERE IS COMFORT IN KNOWING THAT THERE WILL BE PLENTY OF FRIENDS THAT SHARE THEIR SAME TRADITIONS AND BELIEFS. SO TO BEST PREPARE SONS AND DAUGHTERS FOR THE FUTURE AHEAD, PARENTS MUST GUIDE THEM THROUGH THE COLLEGE OPTIONS IN ADVANCE.
By Cheree Heller Liebowitz – Independent College Counselor
The best time to begin guiding the future freshmen is before they start their junior year of high school. Here are five tips to help students maintain a strong Jewish identity in college.
5 Important Steps for Jewish Families with High School Students:
OBTAIN THE HILLEL GUIDE TO JEWISH LIFE ON CAMPUS
Published by the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation, this book details Jewish life on U.S. college campuses, including Jewish populations, activities, kosher dining options, religious activities, resources and services. There is also contact information for each school’s Hillel. A free online version of the guide is available on Hillel.org or the book can be purchased on Amazon.com.
LEARN THE STATISTICS
Independent college advisors, such as those from International College Counselors or other educational consulting firms, usually handle the statistics on Jewish campus life. You may check the statistics with both these and the college admissions offices. Ask about the percentage of Jewish students on campus, nearby synagogues, and Jewish campus life in general.
Good questions for each Jewish family to ask when looking at schools include:
Is there an active Hillel Foundation (or its equivalent)?
What Shabbat and holiday services, student groups, kosher meal plans, Jewish oriented activities, etc. are offered?
Are Jewish studies courses or majors offered?
Does the school offer a for-credit program in Israel?
Is there a Jewish community nearby?
Is there a KOACH group for Conservative Jewish students?
What is the policy for making up work and/or exams that may be missed if a student is observant and does not plan on attending classes on holidays such as Sukkot, Passover or Simchat Torah?
How does the university respect Jewish observance in relation to the school’s calendar?
- CONTACT EACH SCHOOL’S HILLEL FOUNDATION OR JEWISH STUDENT UNION
Both are good sources of information. Speak with the director and obtain the names of actively involved students who would be willing to talk with you or your student.
VISIT THE CAMPUS
Make arrangements to stay on the campus for Shabbat. This time best reflects Jewish life on campus.
Families should feel secure in knowing that, with advance planning, their student’s Jewish values and identity need not be compromised while attending college.