Harvard University

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#T-1, overall score 84.25/100

Fun Fact:

Harvard, founded in 1636, is the oldest university in the United States. It was founded before calculus was invented.

Why should Jewish students attend Harvard? Jewish life at Harvard is flourishing. There are ample opportunities for Harvard students to connect to Jewish life on campus, whether by attending Hillel’s monthly bagel brunch with 300 peers, hosting a Hannukah party or Passover seder in the dorms, attending Shabbat dinner, learning with our rabbis, baking challah, doing community service, and so much more. Students are encouraged to come up with new and creative ideas, and the Hillel staff supports them in making their dreams a reality. Additionally, all of the Jewish campus organizations work together to ensure the needs of all of our students are being met. Hillel also leads two yearly Birthright trips that consist of quality programming and build strong connections to Israel and the Jewish community more broadly. We offer a unique extension program exclusively for Harvard students which enables students to stay for five additional days. Students attend sessions with politicians, journalists, and community representatives to go deeper into issues of Israeli society and geopolitics. Overall, Harvard is a place where students have the chance to explore their Jewish selves, find meaningful Jewish experiences, and take an active role in discovering their personal connection to Jewish communal life that lasts for the four years of college and beyond. — Rebecca Powell, Student Activities Director, Harvard Hillel

Chabad at Harvard engages the hearts and minds of Jewish students by empowering them with a personal connection to the great ideas, values and beauty of Jewish life. We ensure that the leaders of tomorrow are proud, educated and active Jews who will utilize their talents and resources on behalf of the Jewish people, Israel and humanity. Our student programming has set a new standard by transforming the Jewish experience for undergraduate and graduate students on a university campus. We continue to serve as a premier model in engaging the students of our generation. Harvard Chabad serves as a home away from home for thousands of students on the Harvard campus. At Chabad, you will experience family warmth, a lively social scene, Jewish ideas and values, and the best food on campus! Rabbi Hirschy and Elkie Zarchi, together with Chabad’s amazing student leaders, bring innovative programs to campus in the welcoming spirit of Chabad, where all feel right at home regardless of background or degree of observance. Thousands of students have had their connection to Judaism deepened through the work of Chabad at Harvard. — Chabad at Harvard


  • Location: Cambridge, Mass.
  • Region: New England
  • Campus type: College town
  • Public/Private: Private
  • Undergraduate enrollment: 6,710
  • Jewish undergraduate enrollment: 803
  • Jewish population share: 12%
  • Student origin: 16% in-state / 84% out-of-state
  • Student newspaper: The Crimson
  • NCAA Division: I
  • NCAA team: Crimson
  • Ultimate Frisbee teams: Red Line / Quasar

What Students Say:

“Harvard’s housing system sets it apart from most schools. Freshman live in dorms in Harvard Yard, a unique opportunity to get to know your class and live in the middle of the campus in a beautiful and historic area. For the next three years, upperclassmen live in one of twelve houses, which are dorms and social spaces. House life becomes a part of the identity of Harvard students, and our ‘tutors’ (who are like RAs, except they’re either graduate students or staff/faculty) serve as great resources for academic, social or other issues.”

COST & AID Score: 15/15

  • Score: 15/15
  • Tuition: $48,949
  • Room & board costs: $16,660
  • Average annual scholarship/grant package: $56,500
  • Average loan debt: $15,114
  • Starting median salary: $69,200

ACADEMICS Score: 20/20

  • Score: 20/20
  • Acceptance rate: 5%
  • Student/faculty ratio: 6:1
  • Median SAT range: 1460-1590
  • Jewish Studies program: Yes
  • Jewish Studies major: Yes

ISRAEL Score: 14.67/20

SAFETY Score: 8/11

  • Score: 8/11
  • Anti-Semitic incidents in 2017: 0
  • Campus crime rate: 5.65/1,000 students (medium-high)
  • City crime rate: 23.98/1,000 people (medium-low)
  • LGBT center: Yes

JEWISH LIFE Score: 26.58/34

  • Score: 26.58/34
  • Hillel: Harvard Hillel
  • Chabad: Chabad at Harvard
  • OU-JLIC: No
  • Other Jewish outreach group: Meor
  • Jewish fraternities/sororities: The Aleph (Harvard has banned single-sex organizations)
  • Can you get kosher food on the school meal plan? Yes
  • Chicken soup hotline: Yes
  • Active Hillel clubs: 12
  • Hillel Friday night services: 3
  • Average Shabbat attendance – Hillel: 85
  • Average Shabbat attendance – Chabad: 125
  • Synagogues within 10 miles: 29 (9 Orthodox, 8 Conservative, 12 Reform)
  • Eruv: Yes
  • Most famous Jewish alum: Natalie Portman
  • Most unique/noteworthy club: The Jewish Theater Project is a new initiative this year. Six students met weekly throughout the fall semester to discuss the diversity of Jewish experience on campus. Utilizing their own stories and interviews from the community, the students wrote scenes and monologues to reflect the real lives of Jewish college students today. They also examined professionally written work with Jewish themes and chose excerpts to include in the production. After a semester of hard work, they produced a script full of relatable experiences of Jewish students at Harvard. This spring, they are producing the show with a cast of actors from a variety of Jewish backgrounds. The show will be performed in April. The production team hopes the audience will find the play both familiar and thought provoking as the community continues to grapple with the challenges of pluralism on Harvard’s campus.
  • Where do Jewish students come from? All over the world.
  • Kosher food details: Kosher food is available through the university meal plan in the “Kosher Corners” in each of the College Houses, as well as through the kosher dining hall inside the Hillel building, which serves dinner Sunday through Friday and lunch on Saturday. There are many other items available in regular dining halls that are certified kosher as well. There is also a kosher station in The Hark at Harvard Law School that is open to all, where one can purchase lunch on weekdays. There is a weekly Kosher hot lunch on Mondays and dinner on Tuesdays at Chabad.

What Students Say:

“While the Jewish communities at some schools may be fragmented between minyanim, it’s extremely common here to have close friends whose religious lives are extremely different from one’s own. I really appreciate being a part of a community which values and creates space for different Jewish lifestyles.”… “Our Hillel has a very strong Orthodox community, but the Conservative and Reform minyanim are much smaller. The leaders and members of the Conservative and Reform groups provide really lovely communities and great praying, but we would benefit from more engagement in those segments of our Hillel.”

Do you attend this school? Do you want to tell us more about what life there is like? Take our survey here, and your feedback could be featured in next year’s guide! And if you’re a student or campus professional, join our online community Jewish Campus Confidential, and apply to become a Forward Campus Ambassador.

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