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The RJ Insider’s Guide to COLLEGE LIFE
• The Top Schools Jews Choose
• Finding a Jewishly Vibrant Campus
by Number & Percentage (p.36)
The New Criteria (p.39)
• The Top 3 Mistakes Applicants Make
• Does School Choice Impact Future Income?
& What To Do Differently (p.31)
What the Research Reveals (p.44)
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INSIDERâ€™S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEPERSPECTIVE Perspective 100 A conversation with Mitchell B. Reiss, President, Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland
might like something you donâ€™t imagine you would. Finding your purpose in life is what a great undergraduate experience is all about. The best colleges help students find that passion. I believe a liberal arts institution can do this better than any other model on the planet.
What is the best advice you can give a high school student whoâ€™s deciding on a college and a career?
Youâ€™re not going to be very successful or very happy unless youâ€™re really enthusiAbout a third of young astic about what youâ€™re doing. people are getting jobs If you donâ€™t yet know where in industries that didnâ€™t your passion lies, take a cue JOCELYN FARO, WASHINGTON COLLEGE CLASS OF â€™16, PERFORMS exist 10 years ago. How from the French, who have the AT THE GARFIELD CENTER FOR THE ARTS. do you educate stuexpression, â€œThe appetite comes with the eating.â€? In other words, in ent courses. This is one of the great advan- dents for jobs that donâ€™t yet exist? You teach them transcendent skill higher education you can sometimes find tages of a liberal arts education: it allows sets, the most important of which is your passion by taking a variety of differyou to try different courses and see if you
Photo by Karly Kolaja; Cover photo of Universit y of Mar yland Hillel students by R lstevensphotography for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
Begin with Passion
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how to think critically, dissect, and analyze situations. Communicating effectively both in writing and in speech is another essential skill we emphasize. We also stress that possessing these skills is necessary but not sufficient; students also need to develop the moral courage to speak up when they believe something is wrong. Take some of the great mistakes over the last decade— the BP oil disaster, the Penn State sex scandal, the presumption of WMDs in Iraq—in each instance, individuals knew that something wasn’t right or
that misstatements were being made, but nobody spoke up and it led to disaster. In teaching the importance of ethics, integrity, and character, we hope that our graduates will go out into the world with the discernment to make judgments for themselves and the moral courage to act on them by speaking up even when it’s unpopular to do so. Graduates of art-focused schools rack up the most debt. Should students choose a more marketable career option?
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As I said, students should follow their passion, but they also need to think practically. A great way to do this is a double major, with one major in the arts and a second in a more commercially attractive field. So be a music major, for example, but also study business or economics or biology. At Washington College, we’ve put more resources into career counseling and services, helping students map out their years with externships and summer internships, and connecting them with devoted alumni, so they become highly competitive on the job market. It’s paying off: More than 90% of the students in our last two graduating classes who were seeking work have found jobs. I also think it is wrong for schools to burden families and students with more debt than they can manage. To help our students graduate with as little debt as possible, we provide generous financial aid packages wherever possible and advise families about state and federal funding sources. Our track record is extremely good; over the past decade, only one student has defaulted on a loan. Since becoming president in 2010, you’ve taken signiﬁcant steps to make Washington College an inviting place for Jewish students. What prompted you to expand the Jewish presence on campus?
My aim has been to make the college a more inviting and welcoming place for all students regardless of background, ethnicity, or religious tradition. Perhaps, though, it was a little easier for me, given my own Jewish background, to move quickly in rolling out programs that would attract Jewish students. And even before I arrived on campus, a number of Jewish alums who knew I was Jewish urged me to make the college more welcoming to Jewish students than it was in the in the 1950s and 60s, when there were very few Jews and those who were on campus felt isolated. We talked about starting a Hillel House, and within a very short period of time we were able to raise the money. It opened in spring 2012 and has been a great success. Also, a dynamic young faculty member took the lead on developing our study abroad program in Israel—and our students got to hear the
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candidates for prime minister debate in Jerusalem this past January. A Jewish alum, Roy Ans, has also underwritten a fellowship that provides funds for a student research project related to the Jewish-American experience. I believe these are among the reasons why about 10% of our 1,450 students are Jewish.
Experience NYU’s Global Network New York University is an afﬁrmative action/equal opportunity institution.
Advantages of Studying with NYU OQuality academics and
Your Hillel House makes a big point of inviting non-Jews to events.
Yes. The goal is to encourage students to get to know, talk about, and appreciate each other’s cultures and traditions. I know of at least one Muslim student and several Christians, some of a mixed religious background, who are regulars at Hillel events.
internships, and community service placements ORelationships with local
universities OCultural engagement OGuaranteed housing
How do Jewish values inﬂuence your thought and work?
OFull-time, supportive staff ODay trips and weekend
I grew up in a Jewish home that revered learning, knowledge and social justice, and I carry forth these ideals. My conviction that we must all stand up against injustice has been shaped by ethical Jewish principles. And I bring my Jewish heritage into my life and work in
excursions OScholarships and ﬁnancial aid
Stay Local or Go Global Located midway between New York City and Boston and just 8 miles north of New Haven, unlimited options for culture, work and play await. Or take advantage of our opportunities to study abroad at places like Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University and Haifa University.
We’ve got class Small classes, a focus on academic excellence, plus top rankings in U.S. News & World Report as well as the Princeton Review’s Best 377, are just a few of the reasons to choose your education at Quinnipiac University.
Hillel: A Campus Tradition Hillel provides an opportunity for students to continue their Jewish life while at school. With a full-time rabbinical presence, hosting dinners, services and more, Hillel at QU is the perfect place to meet new friends and celebrate old traditions. To learn more, contact Rabbi Reena Judd at Reena.firstname.lastname@example.org. ARTs AND SCIENCEs | Business | Communications | engineering | Health Sciences | nursing | Education | Law | medicine
Quinnipiac offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and 20 graduate programs to 6,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students. Classes are kept small and taught by outstanding faculty in state-of-the-art facilities. Plus our expanded 600-acre, three campus suburban residential setting with modern housing, vibrant recreation and Division I athletics makes for a unique and dynamic university. Visit www.quinnipiac.edu, email email@example.com or call 1-800-462-1944.
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EXPLORE & CELEBRATE
ILLINOIS Â&#x;Â¨ÂĽÂ’Â&#x;ÂœÂŚÂ§ÂœÂ”Â˘Â Â Â¨ÂĄÂœÂ§ÂŹĹ™Â–ÂŞÂœÂŚÂ› Â–Â’ÂĽÂĄÂœÂĄÂ™Ĺ™ Â˘ÂŚÂ›Â–ÂĽÂœÂĄÂœÂĄÂ™
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AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
other ways. For example, one of the great benefits of being president of Washington College is getting to live with my family in a grand old presidentâ€™s house built in 1743. On its front door is a mezuzah I bought at the Yad Vashem gift shop in Jerusalem. Iâ€™m reasonably certain that the house never had a mezuzah on the front door until Elisabeth and I got here. In 1783, George Washington made a donation to the college bearing his name. How do you think heâ€™d react if he came back and saw the mezuzah on your door?
I think heâ€™d approve. After all, in his famous 1790 letter promising sanctuary to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island, President Washington proclaimed: â€œTo bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistanceâ€Ś.â€? Those values resonate as much in the 21st century as they did in the 18th century, and they provide a beacon for the College and our students to this day. â€”Mitchell B. Reiss, President, Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland
T BECOME A JAYHAWK 6IBRANT *EWISH POPULATION ON CAMPUS s !CTIVE *EWISH GREEK LIFE 4HRIVING (ILLEL WITH HUNDREDS OF PARTICIPATING STUDENTS *EWISH 3TUDIES MINOR AND (EBREW COURSES
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he RJ Insiderâ€™s Guide to College Life is a collaborative project of Reform Judaism magazine and Hillel: The Foundation of Jewish Campus Life. To read a digital edition of the College Guide on computer or iPad and email individual articles: reformjudaismmag.org. To learn about Reform college programs, visit urj.org/college; for Reform Israel college programs, call 212-650-4070 or visit rjisrael.org. For additional information about Jewish life on hundreds of campuses, visit Hillel at hillel.org/guide to access Hillelâ€™s College Guide, which provides the following information for each college Hillel serves: number and percentage of Jewish students, full description of quality of Jewish life, direct links to every Hillel, and more.
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INSIDERâ€™S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEADMISSIONS Admissions 100
Getting In: What the Experts Say What are the top 3 mistakes students make when applying to college, and what should they do differently to increase their odds of getting in? Gael Casner, College Find, Greenbrae, CA (UC Berkeley Certificate in College Admissions and Career Planning, creator of â€œCollege Find Newsletter,â€? HECA* president 2013â€“14, NACAC, WACAC):
Mistake #1: Not balancing your application list. Make sure to apply to a few â€œreach schools,â€? meaning very competitive schools where many capable students are denied admission; a handful of â€œtarget schools,â€? where your GPA and test scores fall within the mid 50% of applicants; and at least two â€œanchor schools,â€? where your
academic profile places you within the top 25% of applicants. To calculate your admissions chances at each school of interest, go to collegedata.com, then click on College Chances. Mistake #2: Not setting aside enough time for the college application process. Itâ€™s overwhelming to deal with 10 or 12 applications at once; instead, set aside time every week through the fall to complete them. Mistake #3: Not printing/previewing your application before pushing â€œsubmit.â€? One student I know submitted her application without pushing the save button on significant final corrections, and didnâ€™t learn about the mistake until it was too late. Another student mistakenly uploaded an older version of her essay with corrections and comments from me in red, then
sent it out to five early action collegesâ€” another consequential error. If you build in time to complete your applications before the deadline, youâ€™ll be able to conduct a final, careful review of your work. Heath Einstein (Director of Freshman Admission, Texas Christian University; Former Director of College Counseling, Solomon Schechter School of Westchester):
Mistake #1: Applying to the wrong colleges. Dismissing all but the Ivy League schools or those ranked in the top tier according to US News & World Report is terribly misguided, because what someone else deems important about a school can be wholly unimportant to you. For example, if you want to major in architectural engineering,
Doug â€™14, New Jersey, Middle East Studies major; Sarah â€™15, California, Policy Management major; Greg â€™15, Connecticut, Economics major; Hannah â€™15, Maryland, American Studies major
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s www.dickinson.edu s ADMIT DICKINSONEDU reform judaism
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HEED THE CALL OF GOOSE NATION. www.washcoll.edu
W A S H I N G T O N
A TOP LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION A VIBRANT JEWISH EXPERIENCE
C O L L E G E
Come to the University of Richmond, where our innovative campus rabbi and director of Jewish life is fostering a dynamic community. • Celebrate the holidays and Shabbat and take part in social action and cultural events with Hillel. • Study abroad at the University of Haifa or one of our short-term, multifaith travel intensives. • Minor in Jewish Studies while studying business, leadership studies, or the arts and sciences.
good choices are schools with majors in that discipline, such as the University of Miami and the University of Kansas. Mistake #2: Applying to too many colleges. Today, it has become normal for students to apply to a dozen or more schools. Doing so enables colleges to boast to their Boards of Trustees about record numbers of applicants—but it harms individual students. As applications increase, admission offices have greater difficulty predicting who will actually accept their offers, and therefore increasingly gauge students’ interest when making admission decisions. Many colleges ask students to list all of the schools to which they are applying. Students who are otherwise worthy of admission are often placed on waitlists because colleges are reluctant to offer precious spots to those who appear to have unclear intentions. You would be wise to carefully choose the four or five schools that suit you best and at which you have a strong chance of admission. Mistake #3: Being a stealth applicant, whose first point of contact with a college is your application. You have not visited campus (officially), met with the admissions representative during a high school visit, interacted with the alumnus at the local college fair, or anything else that would indicate to an admissions office that you are seriously interested in the school. Even if you learned about the college by taking a virtual online tour, the school will still regard you as having demonstrated little interest—with undesired ramifications. At many schools, if a college receives applications from two students at the same high school with similar credentials except one has “demonstrated interest” and the other is a “stealth student,” the first student is considerably more likely to receive an offer of admission. Most colleges recruit regionally, meaning there is one staff * Key to Consultant Organizations HECA: Higher Education Consultants Association IECA: Independent Educational Consultants Association NACAC: National Association for College Admission Counseling NJACAC: New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling WACAC: Wisconsin Association for College Admission Counseling
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member responsible for all applicants from your high school. Find out who that person is and send him/her an email indicating your interest. At many colleges, this, along with other forms of contact, will be placed into your file. Updates every couple of months will keep you on the representative’s radar. Wendy Kahn, Wendy Kahn College Consulting, LLC, Highland Park, IL (UCLA College Consulting Certificate, HECA*, IECA Associate Member):
Mistake #1: Failing to consider your personal learning style when deciding between schools. Do you want opportunities for class discussion, smaller classes, and ongoing interaction with professors? Do you think you’ll get better grades in smaller classes? If so, a small school may be the best fit for you. Do you want the greatest possible range and variety in course offerings? Do you prefer to soak up knowledge in lecture classes? Are you considering a specialized major that may not be available at a small school? If so, a larger school may be the right choice for you. Mistake #2: Focusing on superficialities in building a college list. According to a new report (freakonomics. com/2013/01/29/college-as-countryclub), colleges attract more applicants by spending money on “consumption amenities” such as luxury dorms and state-of-the-art climbing walls than they do by investing in academics. Similarly, colleges always see a surge in applications after they win national sports championships, and every year some students choose their school because it’s in a warm climate. But remember: You’re going to be a student Monday through Friday. Academic quality/fit is the goal, not weather, athletics, or amenities. Dr. Michele Hernandez, President, Hernandez College Consulting, LLC, Weybridge, VT; Co-President, Application Boot Camp, LLC:
Vibrant Jewish campus life
Borns Jewish Studies Program www.indiana.edu/~jsp
More than 4,000 Jewish Students X
Top Jewish Studies Program Incoming freshman scholarships up to $20,000 Deadline: Monday, January 27, 2014 www.indiana.edu/~jsp/undergraduates/ funding_freshmen.shtml X
Very Active Hillel X
Strong Israel Overseas Program X
Big IU NFTY Alumni Network
Connect. Celebrate. Study. Travel. Dine. Enjoy social events, Shabbat and holidays, building a community, Judaic study programs, birthright trips and study abroad in Israel, kosher meal plan and more in a welcoming urban environment.
Mistake #1: Applying based on the “hope and a prayer” theory of admissions. At your high school, review the Naviance software scattergrams, which show all college applicants from the last few years graphed by SAT score and
Office of Admissions admit.indiana.edu
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USC Hillel Birthright trip
A PROUD TRADITION. A VIBRANT COMMUNITY.
Ranked #11 among â€œTop 60 Schools Jews Chooseâ€? by Reform Judaism magazine Jewish students at USC find: R5*#,#./&5(5/.#)(&5-/**),.5.",)/!"5#&&&5(5"8 R5)#&,.#)(-65-*#&50(.-5(5(.1),%#(!5)**),./(#.#-8 R52*(5%)-",5#(#(!5)*.#)(-8 R5")&,-"#*-65#(&/#(!5."5*,-.#!#)/-5 1#-"5 ,-"#*5")&,-"#*651),."5qgh6kff5*,53,8 R5Äť55")"5)/(.#)(5 (-.#./.65 )/(5355,/-.5.0(5*#&,!5(50).5.)5)&&.#(!5 55(5*,-,0#(!5."5.-.#')(#-5) 5)&)/-.5-/,0#0),-8 R55$)#(.5"&),]-5!,5*,)!,'5(5-*#-)/,--5)Äż,5.",)/!"55(5,15(#)(5)&&!8
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GPA, to see how you stack up against students at your high school. Also study the GPAs, scores, awards, and achievements of accepted students. At top colleges, grades, test scores, and academic achievements/awards trump all else. If you have a B average and 600 level scores, even if you are a champion chess player, you will not get into Harvard. Mistake #2: Waiting until the last minute to request recommendations. Ask your teachers for recommendation letters at the end of junior year or the very beginning of senior year. Popular teachers get dozens of requests, so by deadline time their letters often become hurried and impersonalâ€”the antithesis of what you need to stand out. Mistake #3: Failing to pay for and send test scores from the College Board website. Some colleges wonâ€™t consider applications unless they receive official SAT, Subject Test, ACT, and AP score reports from the testing agencies, and your school will not send your scores. Sign into your account on collegeboard. org and send the scores five weeks ahead of the application deadline. Carolyn P. Mulligan, Insiders Network to College, Summit, NJ; Board of Counselor CATS for the University of Arizona (IECA*, NACAC, NJACAC, HECA):
Build cultural connections among a community of scholars. visit: apply.jhu.edu
Mistake #1: Applying to the most popular colleges and universities. About 80% of qualified students apply to 20% of the schools. If you look beyond the â€œusual suspectsâ€? and apply to great schools in other states and regions, it may turn out that a couple of those schools are looking for a student from your area to complete their demographic objectivesâ€” and that precious acceptance letter might soon be on its way to you. Mistake #2: Trying to fit yourself into a college or university in which you really donâ€™t belong. I call this â€œthe Cinderella syndrome.â€? Donâ€™t be like the stepsisters who tried to fit into someone elseâ€™s shoe. You need to fit the college, and the college needs to fit you. What hard lessons have Jewish students encountered on campus and how can they be avoided?
Wendy Kahn: One of my students was unhappy at her highly selective, reform judaism
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small liberal arts college. She’d chosen this school in part because of its relatively high Jewish population, but on campus she realized that although the “bodies” were there, the community and programming she expected were not. Worse, the broader campus culture did not suit her—too preppy, too party; she felt like a fish out of water. She transferred to a mid-sized university with a more vibrant Hillel and a campus culture that fit her. She was happy and successful there. So, when evaluating Jewish life at a college, look beyond the demographics and investigate what’s going on that matters to you. Would you like an active Israel advocacy group? Reform services every Friday night? An Israeli dance group? Don’t rely solely on the college website for answers; talk to Hillel staff and student leaders about Jewish life on campus. (Also see “What Makes a Campus Jewishly Vibrant,” page 39.) In addition, make sure you’re comfortable with the broader campus culture. Every college has its own “flavor.” At some schools, weekends are filled with fraternity parties and football; at others, the big weekend events may be a poetry slam and an ultimate frisbee tournament. Talk to students, especially Hillel students, who’ll be candid with you about students’ raves and complaints, the glue that binds campus life, and what it feels like to be a Jewish student there. How can students best narrow down their list of schools?
Gael Casner: Apply these questions to all the schools on your list: 1. What two courses do you really want to take at this college? Research the professors giving the courses. 2. What event on the school’s social calendar would you want to attend if you were on campus this weekend? 3. What club, extracurricular, or community service activity do you want to explore once you reach campus? 4. How easy will it be to get from home to school and back again? 5. How you would spend a day on/ off campus? This exercise will not only help you imagine your everyday life on each campus, it will put you in a great continued on page 47
Ranked #5 in the nation for percentage of Jewish students by Reform Judaism; ranked in the top ten theatre & dance programs by Princeton Review 7 years in a row State-of-the-art science facilities and highly ranked science/premedical programs; Jewish Studies among 40 total majors Expanded Hillel Shabbat Dining Room seats over 300 Fully integrated kosher dining under the supervision of the Star-K MEAT and Star-D DAIRY certification Active Learning. Caring Community. Powerful Outcomes. www.muhlenberg.edu 2400 Chew Street, Allentown, PA 18104
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INSIDERâ€™S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEADMISSIONS Admissions 101 & 102: The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose* PRIVATE SCHOOLS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Jewish % of Population Student (Undergrad) Population
New York University (New York, NY) Boston University (Boston, MA) Yeshiva University (New York, NY) Columbia University (New York, NY) George Washington University (Washington, DC) Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA) Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY) Tulane University (New Orleans, LA) Emory University (Atlanta, GA) University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) American University (Washington, DC) Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL) University of Hartford (Hartford, CT) Yale University (New Haven, CT) Washington University (St. Louis, MO) Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY) Tufts University (Medford, MA) Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus (Brooklyn, NY) Brown University (Providence, RI) Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN) Northeastern University (Boston, MA) University of Rochester (Rochester, NY) Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA) Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) University of Chicago (Chicago, IL) DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
Jewish Studies Courses
Jewish Studies Major
JAFI/Hillel Israel Fellows
6,000 4,500 3,076 3,000 3,000 3,000 2,500 2,500 2,250 2,100 2,000 1,750 1,675 1,600 1,600 1,600 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,350 1,250 1,200 1,200 1,050 1,000 900 900 850 850 800
28% 28% 96% 30% 29% 23% 25% 19% 32% 30% 11% 50% 25% 23% 20% 15% 33% 27% 25% 18% 25% 22% 20% 16% 7% 20% 7% 29% 16% 4%
70 65 138 25 30 46 50 20 50 61 14 60 40 25 35 15 20 50 60 14 25 0 35 35 38 8 5 23 30 10
Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No
No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No No No No Yes No Yes Yes No No No No No No No No No Yes Yes
6,500 6,400 6,000 5,800 5,000 4,600 4,500 4,200 4,010 4,000 4,000 3,600 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,250 3,200 3,1 50 3,000 3,000 3,000 3,000 2,960 2,750 2,600 2,600 2,600
17% 16% 13% 22% 13% 10% 18% 14% 26% 13% 8% 5% 30% 27% 27% 13% 12% 10% 11% 7% 10% 11% 10% 8% 5% 10% 14% 17% 9% 7%
77 50 15 40 80 62 120 60 46 75 30 40 30 43 20 15 25 100 45 100 60 25 25 25 60 30 40 32 50 12
Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes No
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes Yes
PUBLIC SCHOOLS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) Rutgers University, New Brunswick (New Brunswick, NJ) University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, MD) Pennsylvania State University, University Park (University Park, PA) York University (Toronto, ON) University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI) Indiana University (Bloomington, IN) Queens College (Flushing, NY) University of Wisconsin, Madison (Madison, WI) University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX) Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) Binghamton University (Binghamton, NY) CUNY, Brooklyn College (Brooklyn, NY) University at Albany (Albany, NY) Florida International University (Miami, FL) California State University, Northridge (Northridge, CA) McGill University (Montreal, QC) University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ) Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, IL) Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL) University of Western Ontario (London, ON) Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) University of Toronto, St. George (Toronto, ON) Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA) University of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA) University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA) University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
NOTES: Estimated population figures and other campus information are self-reported by *local Hillels. Contact Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life: 202-449-6500, hillel.org/guide.
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& the Top 25 By Percentage of Jews* Student Reform Engagement Worship Interns on Campus Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No Yes Yes No No No No Yes Yes No No No No No Yes No Yes No
Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A No Yes
Reform Groups/ Events Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No N/A No Yes
top 25 schools by percentage of jews
1 JTS List College 200 Jewish Students, 100%
2 Yeshiva University 3,080 Jewish Students, 96%
3 American Jewish University 110 Jewish Students, 92%
4 Brandeis University 1,750 Jewish Students, 50%
5 Muhlenberg College 750 Jewish Students, 35%
6 Barnard College 770 Jewish Students, 33%
CHANUKAPALOOZA AT QUEENS COLLEGE HILLEL.
7 Sarah Lawrence College 400 Jewish Students, 33%
8 University of Hartford 1,500 Jewish Students, 33%
9 Tulane University 2,250 Jewish Students, 32%
10 Binghamton University 3,500 Jewish Students, 30%
11 Goucher College 450 Jewish Students, 30%
12 Emory University 2,100 Jewish Students, 30%
13 Columbia University No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No No No Yes No
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes N/A Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes N/A No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
3,000 Jewish Students, 30%
14 Oberlin College 850 Jewish Students, 29%
15 George Washington University 3,000 Jewish Students, 29% ISRAEL RALLY, CORNELL UNIVERSITY HILLEL.
16 Boston University 4,500 Jewish Students, 28%
17 New York University 6,000 Jewish Students, 28%
18 CUNY, Brooklyn College 3,500 Jewish Students, 27%
19 Yale University 1,500 Jewish Students, 27%
20 University at Albany 3,500 Jewish Students, 27%
21 Queens College 4,012 Jewish Students, 26%
22 Harvard University 1,675 Jewish Students, 25%
23 Wesleyan University 680 Jewish Students, 25% PENN STATE HILLEL STUDENTS CELEBRATE GRADUATION AT THE SCHOOL ARBORETUM.
24 Washington University 1,500 Jewish Students, 25%
25 Tufts University 1,250 Jewish Students, 25%
For Reform college programs: urj.org/college. N/A means information was not made available to Reform Judaism magazine.
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INSIDER’S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEADMISSIONS Admissions 103
Top 20 Small & Mighty Campuses of Excellence*
FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE HILLEL STUDENTS TASTE TEST A NEW RECIPE WHILE BAKING FOR THEIR WEEKLY CAFÉ.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
ALLEGHENY COLLEGE HILLEL SEDER.
Allegheny College (Meadville, PA: Private) Colgate University (Hamilton, NY: Private) College of Charleston (Charleston, SC: Public) Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA: Private) Elon University (Elon, NC: Private) Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, PA: Private) Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, NY: Private) Kenyon College (Gambier, OH: Private) Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA: Private) Lewis & Clark College (Portland, OR: Private) Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles, CA: Private) Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT: Private) Trinity College (Hartford, CT: Private) Union College (Schenectady, NY: Private) University of Guelph (Guelph, ON: Public) Ursinus College (Collegeville, PA: Private) Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA: Public) Washington and Lee University (Lexington, VA: Private) Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA: Private) Williams College (Williamstown, MA: Private)
Jewish Population (Undergrad)
% of Student Population
Jewish Studies Courses
Jewish Studies Major
85 400 700 250 400 370 175 275 800 100 250 350 300 350 800 150 1000 80 235 200
4% 15% 7% 10% 7% 15% 10% 17% 17% 5% 5% 15% 15% 16% 5% 9% 3% 4% 10% 10%
10 10 10 15 32 15 10 5 29 2 10 12 10 20 0 2 5 5 3 10
No Yes No Yes No Yes Yes No No No Yes No Yes No No No No No Yes No
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life has selected these 20 campuses with smaller Jewish popula*tions (listed here in alphabetical order) as “mighty” based on these criteria: innovative Jewish programming, a growing Jewish population, a dedicated professional leader, demonstrated university support, and a commitment to serve Jews of all backgrounds. In addition, many actively recruit to attract Jewish students. For more information: hillel.org/guide
GO DEEPER WITH HILLEL’S COLLEGE GUIDE
he college years are life-changing, and choosing a campus community that reflects Jewish values can play a major role in your future direction. Here and on pages 36–37 you’ll find information about the top schools by Jewish population, by percentage of Jewish enrollment, and by small and mighty criteria. This is a starting place—now go
deeper to research the right campus for you. To help you, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life has launched its improved College Guide. At Hillel.org/guide you’ll: Discover Jewish life at each college in text, photos, and videos Learn about student engagement and social action initiatives, Israel study abroad programs,
Jewish Agency Israel Fellows to HIllel, religious services and kosher dining options Compare/contrast Jewish life at up to three schools simultaneously Connect to social media and event calendars Access every local Hillel and directly connect with staff and students there—the key to knowing what a school is really like.
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INSIDERâ€™S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEADMISSIONS Admissions 104
What Makes a Campus Jewishly Vibrant?
Courtesy of Long Beach Hillel, beachhillel.org
early, as a high school guidance director and president of the Jewish interest group of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, I visit colleges throughout the U.S. to see how Jewish life is changing campus-wide. Iâ€™ve learned that the traditional criteria for what constitutes an active â€œJewishâ€? campus are not always the best; and other Jewish factors you may not have considered can be much more important. In the past, two key indicators of a vibrant Jewish presence on campus were Greek life and the availability of kosher food. However, because Jewish fraternities and sororities are open to students of all religions, their numbers are not a good barometer of Jewish activity. Similarly,
having a kosher food option may not indicate a high number of Jewish students, but rather that the college is trying to attract Jewish students. What indicators, then, are more on target today? And what questions should you ask the school?
programming. Organizations such as Hillel have discovered that if they canâ€™t get students into their doors, they can bring Jewish programs out to the students. Through Hillelâ€™s Campus Entrepreneurs BEACH HILLEL STUDENTS AT UC LONG BEACH MAKE A HUMAN MENORAH. Initiative (CEI) program, in 2012â€“13, 308 trained student interns built relationships with uninvolved Jewish peers Jewish Engagement Programs on 48 campuses, helping them explore One of the hottest trends on todayâ€™s and connect to Jewish life on their own college campuses is student-led Jewish
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ĂœĂœĂœÂ°ĂŒĂ€ÂˆÂ˜VÂœÂ?Â?Â°i`Ă• reform judaism
6/27/13 6:36 PM
A dynamic Jewish community at the nation’s leading university for engaged learning. • • • • •
Warm, welcoming and inclusive Jewish community Home-like Sklut Hillel Center opened in March 2013 38 Jewish Studies courses New chapter of Zeta Beta Tau Jewish fraternity More than 8% of students are Jewish
Elon-Hillel www.elon.edu/hillel ELON, NORTH CAROLINA
terms. And since CEI’s inception in 2007, 1,400+ interns across 70+ universities have formed relationships. Some students host a Shabbat dinner in their apartment, inviting disengaged Jewish students to join them with no agenda except to share in the joys of the Jewish experience. Boston University sophomore Andrew Zuckerman, for one, says that having Shabbat dinner with blessings over the candles and the wine in an off campus apartment with more than 25 students is “a much more relaxing environment” than davening at the Hillel House. Thanks to a URJ-Hillel partnership, a Reform Movement CEI intern will now be on nine campuses, each building 60 relationships in the school year, strengthening the Reform community on campus, and sharing Reform engagement opportunities, such as staffing URJ camps and participating in leadership conferences. To find out about Jewish engagement programs on campus, ask the local Hillel and the admissions office. To learn more about the Reform CEI program, contact Lisa Barzilai at the Union for Reform Judaism: 212–650–4081. Campus Clubs
When I was looking at colleges in the late ’80s, Hillel was the only Jewish club— JEWISH STUDIES: THE HUC/USC OPTION
S A Powerhouse of Excellence Founded as the World’s First Jewish Fraternity Represented on campuses in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom If you are interested in being a part of a Jewish Fraternity without pledging, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (317) 334-1898.
tudents seeking a Judaic studies program at a private university may wish to consider the University of Southern California, where the Jerome H. Louchheim School for Judaic Studies offers classes in cooperation with the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion—the only such arrangement in North America. Courses cover antiquity to modernity, biblical Israel to the contemporary United States, literature to linguistics. The Hebrew program offers four semesters of language instruction.
For more information, visit huc.edu/louchheim or facebook. com/JewishStudiesUSC, email email@example.com, or call the Louchheim School Office, (213) 765-2113.
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the sole option. In 2013 it’s astounding to see the diversity of Jewish clubs, another clue to the Jewish presence on campus. You can find a match not only based on your religious needs, but also on your personal interests, everything from singing to politics. Some national groups, such as AIPAC and American Jewish World Service, have a presence on many campuses; others are specific to the campus. At the University of Pennsylvania, for example, the Jewish clubs include Meor, which offers a weekly three-hour class with different speakers; Jewish Renaissance Project, which runs experimental, cutting-edge programs; and the Shabbatones, an a cappella group that performs both on and off campus. At University of Michigan there are 20 homegrown Jewish student groups—not even counting the ones Hillel spearheads.
University of Chicago students join a community that’s all about ideas. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you’ll ﬁnd a place that allows you to take chances, express your thoughts, and discover your passions. The award-winning Newberger Hillel Center, UChicago, and a multitude of Jewish student organizations support a diverse array of Jewish communities that allow students to explore being Jewish in social, ethnic, spiritual, and myriad other ways.
Another question to ask is whether the university has forged positive relationships with Israeli universities—an indicator of its underlying stance with regard to the Jewish state. For example, University of California at Irvine, which has engendered considerable negative press for its Apartheid Weeks and pro-Palestinian speakers on campus, has also forged connections to four Israeli universities, “opening the door to a wide range of research collaborations, faculty and student exchanges, conferences, and workshops that deepen UCI’s ties to Israel,” says Lisa Armony, executive director of the Rose Project of Jewish Federation in Orange County, which works to enhance Jewish life on Orange County college campuses. “And when faculty and students have direct interaction with Israel and Israelis, it can leave a lasting imprint on how they view the country, its people, and their contributions to global society.” In addition, inquire whether the school participates in the Israel Fellows program run through Hillel and the Jewish Agency in Israel. Today, 70 North American campuses are partnering with post-Army Israelis, who help strengthen college students’ relationships with Israel by bringing their own experiences, knowledge, and peer counsel directly to campus. Shai Kartus, a sophomore at Binghamton University, describes her school’s Israel felcontinued on page 43
đ Annual Latke-Hamantash Debate đ Chicago Center for Jewish Studies đ Full kosher meal plan đ International Alternative Spring Break trips đ Jewish fraternity life đ UChicago Birthright Trips
For more information, visit the Newberger Hillel Center at hillelatuchicago.org/newberger, or the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies at jewishstudies.uchicago.edu.
Alpha Epsilon Phi / Sigma Delta Tau As the nation’s leading Jewish collegiate sororities, we encourage: l l l
Academic Excellence Philanthropic Commitment Campus and Community Involvement Dedication to Jewish Values
For more information please visit our websites.
Building young Jewish women. www.aephi.org / www.sigmadeltatau.com reform judaism
6/27/13 6:37 PM
Lester & Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center
The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life
www.msuhillel.org Michigan State University 517-332-1916 Free Trips to Israel Shabbat Services & FREE Shabbat Dinners Athletics High Holiday Services & Meals Social Events Community Service Alternative Breaks Israel Programs Monthly Brunches
JUDAIC STUDIES An exciting and diverse liberal arts
(and liberal arts to careers)
For more information check binghamton.edu/judaic-studies/
Estelle Meskin, M.A. Independent Educational Consultant
Engaging Hundreds Each Day SPECIALIZING IN COLLEGE PLANNING AND CAREER EXPLORATION
Uniq Un que and nd varie arie ar ied d en enttry try p poin po nts ts to Je Jewi wish sh h liffe: e t t
303.394.3291 firstname.lastname@example.org www.estellemeskin.com Independent Educational Consultants Assn. Higher Education Consultants Assn.
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One of the most vibrant Hilllels in the country! ww ww.Tu w..Tu Tula l ne neHi Hillllel Hi lllell.o .org org
ROTHBERG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM
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COLLEGEMARKETPLACE Experience Jewish life in the heart of New York City at Baruch College. Learn more about our active Jewish Studies Center and Hillel at Baruch: Intellectual challenge and a wealth of social experiences – when it comes to the foundation students need to succeed, no combination is more important. No liberal arts college does it better than DePauw.
Hillel at DePauw Welcoming Jewish community High Holiday and Passover services and meals Weekly Hillel meetings
...advancing knowledge of Jewish history, thought, and culture through learning, intercultural dialogue, and social action.
Monthly service on campus Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program
For more information: www.du.edu/cjs “like” us on facebook or follow us on twitter
www.depauw.edu Jewishly Vibrant Campus continued from page 41 low who works in the Hillel building as a friend who “goes to coffee with students and helped me a lot in planning my semester abroad in Israel.” Israel Sentiment
For some Jewish students, a key factor in choosing a college hinges on whether it has “Apartheid Weeks” and other anti-Zionist protests. Some students may not be comfortable attending a campus where these types of activities are part of the culture. To understand the level of disturbance you can expect on each campus, be sure to ask about the prevalence of
anti-Israel protests such as Apartheid Week and how the school handles them, because university codes of conduct vary in regulating such events. Many schools, for example, protect the First Amendment rights of students who participate in these events, while at the same time defending the rights of other students on campus not to have to experience anti-Israel demonstrations. In some cases, such as University of California at Irvine, these protests are relegated to a more secluded area of campus, making it unlikely that a student who does not wish to see them will pass by unintentionally. Asking these questions can help you decide for yourself whether this campus meets your personal level of tolerance for such incidents.
FUNDING REFORM PROJECTS ON CAMPUS
ake advantage of Men of Reform Judaism’s Reform on Campus (ROC) grants. You can apply for up to $500 for a single Reform event, such as a camp-style Shabbat and dinner, or up to $750 for a series of events, such as a cultural celebration series. For the 2012–13 academic year, the Men of Reform Judaism awarded 31 grants totaling nearly $17,500, according to Steven Portnoy, MRJ secretary and chair of the Reform on Campus Committee. For more information: facebook.com/reformoncampus reform judaism
University Support of Jewish Life
Explore the university’s course offerings. Schools with Jewish Studies majors and minors, as well as Hebrew language and Jewish religion courses, are more likely to be places with vibrant Jewish campus life Also, some schools go above and beyond to accommodate Jewish students’ needs. For example, at Muhlenberg College, classes are cancelled for Yom Kippur and professors are understanding of students’ religious commitments on other holidays. ♦♦♦ So, if you consider Jewish life on campus an important part of a well-rounded university experience, inquire about Jewish-related happenings important to you. The college decision is likely the biggest one you’ll be making in your life to date—so make it well. —Gary Berger, director of Guidance at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and president of CAJUE, the Jewish special interest group of the National Association for College Admission Counseling
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INSIDER’S GUIDE TOCOLLEGE LIFEADMISSIONS Admissions 105
djusted for inflation, young college grads today earn less than their counterparts did a decade ago.
A Good Financial Investment?
So, is college still a good investment— measured not in naches and intellectual growth, but in dollars and cents? Yes. Even in hard times, the chances of getting a job are greater for college grads. In March 2013, the unemployment rate for those over age 25 who only had a high school diploma was 7.6%. For those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, it was 3.8%. You don’t need to master calculus to understand that math. And for people with jobs, those with B.A. degrees make more money—a lot more, on average. The typical worker— the one in the statistical middle, with only a high school diploma—earned about $28,000 last year. In contrast, the typical worker with a B.A. earned about $51,500 a year—80% more. Comparing workers of similar age, gender, race, and experience, college grads average 45% more than high school grads. Elite Colleges—A Better Buy?
Does it really matter which college you go to? Not as much as you think. Graduates of the most elite colleges, the ones that parents brag about at cocktail parties and on the back windows of their cars, do make more money than graduates of less elite schools. But is that because these students went to those colleges or because they were smarter or more driven in the first place? Researchers Alan Krueger (now chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers) and Stacy Dale sorted colleges by their students’ average SAT scores and concluded: “Students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by compara-
ble schools, but attended less selective colleges.” Students’ motivation, ambition, and desire to learn, they discovered, have a much stronger effect on subsequent success than the average academic ability of their classmates. Krueger’s advice: “Don’t believe that the only school worth attending is the one that would not admit you. That you go to college is more important than where you go.” As columnist David Leonhardt put it in a New York Times piece, a student with a 1400 SAT score who applied to the University of Pennsylvania but went to Penn State earned as much, on average, as a student with a 1400 who went to Penn State. Majors Matter
From the perspective of future earnings, a student’s choice of major is more important than where s/he gets the degree. Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce tapped U.S. Census Bureau data to estimate the typical earnings of 171 college majors. “The bottom line,” says center director Anthony Carnevale, “is that getting a degree matters, but what you take matters more.” Petroleum engineers ($120,000/year) make considerably more than early-childhood education majors ($36,000/year). Sociology majors average $45,000/year, economics majors $70,000. Comparing College Costs
To compare the cost of different colleges, a good starting place is the U.S. government’s still-rudimentary College Scorecard website collegecost.ed.gov/ reform judaism
scorecard. Typing in the name of a college will give you what it typically costs (note: the estimate does not apply to those whose family income makes them ineligible for financial aid), the percentage of students who graduate within six years, the loan size for the typical student borrower, and the percentage of students who default on loans. You can also search for colleges by size, programs, location, and more. It’s not a bad starting point if you’re choosing between a very pricey, prestigious college and one that’s a notch down on the prestigious rankings but costs a lot less. And the data can provide valuable warnings—for example, a four-year school from which fewer than half the full-time students graduate within six years deserves some scrutiny. The Education Department says some day it will add data on graduates’ average earnings, although the information will be limited to those who took federal student loans to help pay tuition. For assistance in demystifying the college financial aid process, visit finaid.org, a site started by financial-aid maven Mark Kantrowitz. Also the College Board site bigfuture.collegeboard.org is helpful. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau site consumerfinance.gov/ paying-for-college has a calculator that facilitates apples-to-apples comparisons of student aid offers, and offers tips on comparing loans and grants. Payscale (payscale.com/collegeeducation-value) compares tuition cost to lifetime earnings for 850 colleges and publishes a rate of return on the investment. It says an engineering degree at
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Calculating the True Costs & Beneﬁts of College
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Harvey Mudd offers the biggest long-run payoff. But its estimates rely on salary information furnished by people who fill out a survey on the companyâ€™s website, limiting its reliability. With Lumina Foundation funding, College Measures (collegemeasures. org) is working with state governments to share data about the earnings of recent public university grads. Some information has already been posted. Such efforts to tie school choice to future earnings are controversial, in part because they penalize colleges that send graduates to low-paying jobs such as Teach for America or low-paying careers such as social work, and they reward
schools that turn out bond traders and corporate lawyers. Moreover, these returnon-investment sites also distort the value of education by boiling it down to the size of a future paycheck, rather than, as Harvard President Drew Faust explains, â€œa passport to a lifetime of citizenship, opportunity, growth and change.â€? Thatâ€™s a good reminder. A college education is partly about price: You should get what you pay for. But the true value of a college education is not measured solely in dollars and cents. â€”David Wessel, economics editor, The Wall Street Journal, and a member of Temple Sinai in Washington, DC
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Admissions 106: College Cash 1 Scholarships & Grants The JVS Scholarship Loan Program of the Jewish Vocational Service Agency offers interestfree, need-based loans up to $5,000/year to Jewish residents of MetroWest New Jersey. jvsnj.org The JCCs of North America Graduate Scholarship Program offers full-time students pursuing a masterâ€™s degree in select subjects up to $20,000 if they agree to work for two years at a JCC after graduation. jccworks.com The Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America offers $750â€“$1,500 grants to high school seniors who are direct descendants of members. jwv.org The Central Scholarship and Loan Referral Service (a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh administered by Jewish Family & Childrenâ€™s Service) offers $500â€“$3,000 need-based scholarships to Western Pennsylvania residents. centralscholarship.org The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation offers $400â€“$10,000 need-based scholarships primarily to students from the Greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. djcf.org The Jewish Social Service Agency of Metropolitan Washington offers $1,500 â€“$6,000 scholarships and interest-free loans to Jewish residents of metropolitan Washington, DC. jssa.org
The Jewish Family Service Association offers need-based grants and loans of up to $4,000/ year to Jewish residents in Greater Cleveland. jfsa-cleveland.org The Jewish Vocational Service Agency of Los Angeles offers need-based scholarships of $2,000 - $5,000/year to Jewish residents of Los Angeles County. jvsla.org The Jewish Childrenâ€™s Regional Service offers $2,000 grants and no-interest loans on average per academic year to Jewish undergraduates whose families reside in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. jcrs.org
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2 Lower Cost Loans The Jewish Educational Loan Fund (JELF) provides interest-free, need-based â€œlast-dollarâ€? loans to Jewish students from Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. jelf.org Member organizations of the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans offer interest-free, need-based loans. freeloan.org Editorâ€™s Note: For more scholarship, grant, and loan sources, check with the major Jewish organizations in your local community, among them the Jewish Information and Referral Service and the National Council of Jewish Women. reform judaism
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COLLEGE LIFECAMPUS LIFE Campus Life 200
o say that Judaism has been a constant feature in my life is an understatement. I spent eight hours a day in a Jewish day school from kindergarten through graduation, and went to temple every Shabbat. My family was so active in our synagogue, we received its “Family of the Year” award. For some people, this would have been a comforting situation. But I felt suffocated by years of being told to pray to something I simply had to believe in (or, at the very least, be quiet and not interrupt others in prayer), regardless of the fact that feelings of spirituality were non-existent in me. I didn’t believe in any divine force or presence, and never experienced spiritual fulfillment. In Jewish day school, too, I never felt Jewishly connected.
The more Judaism was forced on me, the more I pushed back. I began disagreeing with everySCUBI JEWS HELP TO RESTORE A CORAL REEF. thing just for the sake of having I’M WEARING THE YELLOW GOGGLES. my own opinion. A rift formed between my heritage ocean floor and turned off our flashlights. and me that I thought was unbridgeable. What happened next forever changed my After graduating from high school I life and perspective of the world. traveled the world for a year before setThe water was filled with bioluminestling in to college. I was part of the crew cent organisms that emitted a glow when sailing a 90-foot sailboat around the Brit- disturbed. These organisms can’t be seen ish Virgin Islands, which also doubled as with the naked eye, but when I ran my a mobile, floating, scuba-diving intenhand through the water, they lit up with sive, marine science classroom. One the most magnificent glow I had ever seen, evening, while anchored off the Grenada and left a trail of glimmering light in the coast, we went on a night dive. This was wake of my moving hand. my first night dive; I was ecstatic. We At that moment, everything I had ever were handed high-powered flashlights perceived about spirituality and a higher and jumped into the black water. After being changed. Sixty feet underwater in exploring for a bit, we all kneeled on the the pitch-black night, surrounded by glowing microscopic organisms, I felt closer to God than ever before. The beauty and sheer wonder of what was occurring before my eyes made me realize: Even if there is not a God, there is most certainly something greater than myself—something that allows these unbelievable little creatures to exist. Upon my arrival at Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida to study marine biology, I was amazed to learn that its Hillel had the only Jewish scuba club in the nation! I hadn’t expected to involve myself with organized Jewish life on campus, but I also hadn’t imagined that scuba diving could be a Jewish activity. As it happened, Hillel Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, who initiated the Scubi Jew club, had a passion and love for our underwater world equal to mine. So I accepted his invitation to join the club, soon became a dedicated member, and last year was elected its president. I’ve worked hard to bring the club to new heights…or should I say depths. By getting involved with Scubi Jew I came to understand that Judaism is more than prayers, laws, and restrictions; and that other aspects of Judaism could resonate very strongly within me. Once a reform judaism
Photo by Jason Spitz
The Scubi Jew
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month we would go down to Key Largo, Florida and volunteer with the Coral Restoration Foundation (coralrestoration.org, CRF), which grows and maintains tens of thousands of corals in offshore nurseries, and then outplants them on degraded coral reefs. Coral reefs are vital to the functioning of the Earth—they support a great diversity of species, provide food and shelter, and form natural barriers that protect nearby shorelines. Many of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed in the last few decades and/or been severely degraded, particularly in the Caribbean. So the opportunity to work with CRF creator Ken Nedimyer and his team—of which I am now a proud member—has been deeply exciting and meaningful. In fact, the concept of tikkun olam (repair of the world)—or tikkun hayam (repair of the seas) as we like to call it— has taken on a whole new meaning for me. We hear so much about what’s wrong, broken, and irreversible on our planet. Everyone seems so overwhelmed and nobody knows how to help. I had thought in a similar way, until I planted a single coral, and then another, and then another. Then I realized: Our planet may be in red-zone conditions, 98% of our coral reef habitats may be in decline, but I will not stand idly by and watch as the remaining 2% degrades. I will help rebuild our coral reefs one fragment at a time. Nowadays, I have a new synagogue: The Ocean. There I find God, and fulfill the mitzvot necessary to repair the world. I say prayers, but none that you would find in any prayer book. I don’t need pre-written words to express how truly thankful I am; while underwater, my constant mental stream of thoughts is my prayer. I’m always talking to someone down there, expressing my wonder at the underwater life, and I know somebody is listening. Sixteen years of being force-fed Judaism left me empty, but Scubi Jew has shown me another dimension of being Jewish that has kept me from rejecting it all. I have come to love the concepts of tikkun olam, honor of one’s parents (who are very proud of me), and respect for all of creation. I now experience spiritual fulfillment as a Jew—my way. —David Steren, president, Scubi Jew: Eckerd College Environmental Divers
Getting In: The Experts Say continued from page 35 position to answer a common inquiry: Why are you interested in this college? How can high school students stay sane throughout the pressures of the applications process?
Heath Einstein: A couple of years ago the administration of a prestigious independent school bemoaned the fact that students work themselves to the bone just for the “keys to the kingdom.” I responded that the problem is our having instilled the concept of a kingdom to begin with—some sort of Shangri-La to which students aspire. College is not an end point; it is an experience on life’s journey. If students can understand that their self-worth is not determined by whether they get the thick or thin envelope, we begin to create a climate that puts this college maze into its proper perspective. Your choices in college are far more important than your college of choice. Carolyn P. Mulligan: To keep sane in the midst of it all, participate in extracurricular activities because they interest and matter to you, and not because they look good on your application. If you follow your own path and passion in high school, you will likely continue to do so in college, and after. Is it always a good idea for students to go straight from high school to college? When should they consider a gap-year program, a service program, a job/internship, or other alternative?
Heath Einstein: Taking time between the AP-intensive high school years and the career-preparing college years makes a lot of sense. A year living on a kibbutz or volunteering in the Negev while learning Hebrew can be a highly educational and developmental experience that can only enhance the four years to follow. The one downside to taking time off is that when you reengage with your new classmates, you might notice their lack of maturity. After all, they will have just completed senior prom, senior prank, and one last summer of beach bonfires. reform judaism
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