Academic reputation, cost and graduation rate are often thought of as the biggest factors students consider when selecting a college to attend. But for incoming freshmen David Glickman, Evan Koss and many other Jewish students around the country, there’s another important dynamic that goes into their college selection.
David Glickman, Cornell University, Hillcrest Jewish Center (Flushing, New York)
Cornell University may be well known for its outstanding academics and elite status as an Ivy League school, but it was the school’s strong Jewish presence on campus that ultimately sealed David’s choice to attend this fall. David, who currently works at Camp Ramah in Nyack and previously served as president for METNY’s Sababa division, points to the university offering classes centered on Kashrut, Hebrew and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and having a Center for Jewish Living as examples of why he made his decision.
“Cornell having a strong Jewish community was vital to me wanting to attend because I know that I will be able to continue to live a moral and Jewish life on campus and maintain my strong faith,” says David. “The student body also includes many Jews, so I will be able to live Jewish-ly with Jewish people and learn Jewish topics.”
While studies show that Jewish students are almost twice as likely to decrease their observance level when coming to college, research also indicates that developing a strong connection to Hillel and taking on Jewish leadership roles on campus are ways to increase observance. David, who will be studying Industrial and Labor Relations, plans to do exactly that.
“On the first Shabbat I’m on campus, I definitely plan to go to Hillel and join the community for Shabbat dinner, as well as to attend services,” David says. “From there, it’s all about being active. I want to join the Israel Advocacy Club and be as active in Jewish life as possible.”
Evan Koss, St. Joseph’s University, Kesher Israel Congregation (West Chester, Pennsylvania)
Despite being a Catholic institution, Judaism was a heavy influence on Evan’s decision to attend St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in the fall. Besides having a Conservative synagogue two blocks away from campus, Evan says learning in a religious, non-Jewish environment will ultimately benefit his Jewish practice.
“Even though the school’s religious affiliation is not my own, Judaism is a huge part in my life and I can’t wait to continue practicing and educating those around me, especially within the university’s Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations and the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia,” Evan says. “I will be attending Shabbat services regularly and will be participating in several interfaith clubs on campus.”
Evan, who attended Kesher Israel Congregation’s Hebrew School and was a three-time regional board member in USY’s Mizrach region, says he looks forward to his proud Jewish upbringing shining each day on campus.
“I have a strong sense of Jewish identity that, despite being one of a handful of non-Christian students on a Catholic university campus, I know will carry me far and allow me to freely express my faith in an unfamiliar place,” he says. “I know that when I pass the ‘Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time’ statue, which represents the institutions of the Catholic Church and Synagogue on equal ground, I am accepted and safe within my college campus that I am free to be a Jew at St. Joseph’s University.”
What Does Judaism Mean to You as a Soon-to-Be College Student?
David: “Judaism is a way to live life. From the morals to the traditions, it’s a guide to being a good, faithful person. Judaism fuses both prayer and being a good person together, which helps make me a better person who is seeking meaning and connection.”
Evan: “Judaism is more than giving up bread once a year and reminding friends that I do not have a Christmas tree. Judaism is a set of principles that encompasses my life every single second of every day. Through my Jewish upbringing, I was taught a strong set of morals and values that have guided me to be the successful student and accomplished person that I am today.”
To read about which colleges have the best Jewish life, click here.