The Jewish campus life factor in choosing colleges

By Isabella Gross

It is that time of year again; seniors everywhere are finishing up their college applications and waiting to hear which colleges have accepted them. Now it is their time to choose. 

Many things come into consideration when choosing a college: the city, the campus, the academics, the social life, and more. But one other aspect that is more important to some is whether or not their chosen college accommodates their faith. Many schools have church services but not all schools have a Hillel or a Chabad. Hillel is a place for Jewish students to go on holidays to attend services while Chabad is a functioning religious organization on college campuses. Hillel’s mission and vision are clearly stated on their website: 

“Enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world…We envision a world where every student is inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”

For Paige Krug, a Ladue Horton Watkins High School senior, having a college with a strong Jewish presence is very important.

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“I really want the college I choose to have a huge Jewish population,” said Paige, who attends Congregation B’nai Amoona. “I really want to be involved in the Hillel there as well. I would say that Judaism is a pretty big factor for choosing a college for me. I plan to go to Hillel over all of the holidays and some Shabbats.  I want to stay really involved.” 

Paige is also the president of her USY chapter. While she may not be able to find something similar, Hillel will serve as a Jewish community she can always count on. 

For other students, Judaism is not the biggest factor in choosing a college but it still plays a role.  

“Judaism has influenced my college search process and decision,” Sami Friedman, a Whitfield senior who attends United Hebrew, said. “While it has not been the biggest determining factor, it is important to me to be in a place where there are other Jewish kids. The schools that I applied to have at least a decent Jewish population and all of them have Hillels. I plan on continuing to practice Judaism very similarly to how I already do while in college. Being in a community with other Jewish students will make this easier.”

Sometimes, students don’t choose a school based on their faith, but once they arrive on campus they are pleasantly surprised by the Jewish presence. For Sepora Makabe, a Washington University freshman, this experience was just the case.

“Jewish life definitely has a strong and vibrant presence on campus, and although I didn’t pick a school based entirely on my Judaism or the type of Jewish life available, I now feel incredibly blessed to be a part of such a lovely Jewish community,” Makabe said. “Wash U is often jokingly called Wash Jew, but honestly, the name fits. There are tons of opportunities for students to get involved in all aspects of Jewish life, and there are constantly events, Shabbat dinners, and a variety of gatherings available, for individuals of different traditions and sects of Judaism. Through Chabad, Hillel, and numerous student groups, WashU’s Jewish life is filled with exciting opportunities and offers a great place for connection with others. Overall, I’m very glad I picked a school that aligns so well with my Judaism.”

So whether or not Judaism plays a role in choosing a college, many students may be surprised what they find when they end up on campus.