Campus Life 202:
Article appeared in Reform Judaism Online, August 2009
Making Your Jewish Way On Campus
You've unpacked your clothes, hung posters on the walls, and registered for your classes. Now it's time to find your way around campus -— your Jewish way around campus.
Whether you're looking for a spiritual home where you can share religious experiences with like-minded people, a way to connect and do day-to-day things with Jewish friends, or a comfortable place to learn about Jewish religion and culture, you'll find your way. You just need to know where to look.
Become familiar with online resources that will help you learn and grow as a student and as a Jew, such as KESHER (www.keshercollege.org), and Hillel (www.hillel.org). They'll keep you connected with Jewish happenings in North America and overseas. As you learn what other Jewish students are doing on their campuses, you may find some ideas to import into your own life.
Explore what your college offers to satisfy your desire for Jewish experiences. Colleges that have a significant number of Jewish students typically offer a variety of opportunities. For example, University of Pennsylvania, with an undergraduate Jewish population of approximately 3,000 students, sponsors a full calendar of religious, cultural, and social activities for Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox students —- and a Penn-sponsored, student-created and -run theater group, Teatron Jewish Theater. The group presents works with Jewish themes that reflect the lives of Penn students -— and does not perform or rehearse on Friday night and Saturday.
Be Jewish on your own terms. If you're not a "group person" and prefer to celebrate the holidays with an intimate group of friends, stop by Hillel at Tufts University and pick up your Shabbat To Go or Seder To Go kit. Take it back to your dorm or apartment and celebrate your own way.
If you're not finding what you want at your school, create it. In 1903, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) was incorporated at Columbia University as a Jewish fraternity. And in 1909, when students at Barnard College were denied membership in national sororities because of their religion, they formed Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi), the first Jewish sorority. Today, you're likely to find a number of Jewish sororities and fraternities on campuses far and wide.
And for more ideas on finding your Jewish way around campus, consult the college chaplain. You may find there are more opportunities than you imagined.