Online Guide Catalogs Jewish Offerings on Campus

By Ethan Porter

Published August 13, 2004, issue of August 13, 2004.

Hillel, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, has released an updated version of its Guide to Jewish Life on Campus, and for the first time has made it available exclusively online (www. hillel.org).

“We’ve updated all of the information for every single campus with which we have contact, from the smallest university to the largest,” said Jeff Rubin, Hillel’s director of communications, who supervised the compilation of the guide. The information available is of immediate interest to Jewish students — specifically, the strength of the Hillel chapter, the availability of kosher food and the size of the Jewish population on each campus. (According to Hillel’s estimates, New York University has the largest Jewish student population, with 6,500 undergraduates; Brandeis, however, has the largest proportion of Jews in its student body, 62%.)

Although earlier versions of the guide were published online, as well as in print editions, because this is the first version to be available exclusively over the Web, the old database was purged and started anew. A search function was added to facilitate easy navigation of the exhaustive material. For this new edition, 792 universities from around the globe (including 27 from the former Soviet Union) were surveyed, the only prerequisite being the existence of a Hillel chapter. Hillel plans to update the database continually as pertinent information streams in.

“All this information,” Rubin explained, “should be very instructive for parents and children looking for a school.”

The overhaul of the guide was necessary, he said, because Jewish students and parents now have so many choices. Some smaller schools, which one might not expect to offer a thriving Jewish community, do offer a variety of Jewish-themed events and organizations. Rubin points to North Dakota State University as a prime example of this trend. Though not boasting a particularly large Jewish community, its Jewish campus life is essentially first rate, thanks in no small part to a female student from the former Soviet Union who has spearheaded multiple projects and programs about Judaica.

Also surprising is the presence of relatively strong Jewish communities on distinctly Christian campuses, including Southern Methodist University and Texas Christian University. And of primary interest to surfers and lovers of luaus is a Hillel chapter that now flourishes at the University of Hawaii. As the old saying goes, whatever floats your boat.



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