Recently, the Forward released their “Jewish College Guide,” ranking the best colleges for Jewish students. Unfortunately, this guide overlooked a gem of Jewish university life — The Jewish Theological Seminary’s List College.
List College is a vibrant, pluralistic community where undergraduates earn two simultaneous degrees. Students pursue a JTS major in a specific Jewish studies field, such as Jewish ethics, Midrash, or Jewish history, while completing a second major chosen from the full array of liberal arts and science offerings at Columbia University and/or Barnard College.
Columbia University made it into the Forward’s top ten, but the unique experience of List College deserves a special highlight. Here are three ways List College fosters a thriving Jewish student life that you can’t find anywhere else:
“List College provides opportunities for students to expand beyond their cultural knowledge of Judaism, and to take courses which challenge our ideas about religion and cultural movements.” — Alex Harvey, Class of 2016
Many schools offer Jewish studies majors, including Columbia/Barnard, but List College goes even further. At List, students have the opportunity to follow their passions and dive deeply into a specific area of Jewish learning, with a JTS major in areas such as Jewish Thought, Midrash, Jewish Gender and Women’s Studies, and more. As a Jewish literature major, I took classes like “The Jewish Graphic Novel,” “Gender in Hebrew Poetry, and “New Wave in Israeli Literature” —awesome, right?! Plus, List College students learn from the world’s leading Jewish thinkers. Our professors are not only our teachers, but our mentors and role models as well.
All of this Jewish learning takes place side-by-side with our studies at Columbia University and Barnard, in whatever topic we choose, like political science, history, biology, and more. By synthesizing our Jewish identities with our knowledge and interests outside of our Judaism, List College students have the opportunity to develop our whole selves—a truly transformative experience.
“The community that forms in the residence halls was one of the main reasons I was drawn to List College as an applicant, and one of the reasons I am still grateful to be a part of the List College community. It provides an important hub for our small, tight-knit, and warm community to gather, share meals, and create and negotiate a pluralistic Jewish living environment.” — Amram Altzman, Class of 2017
Some of my peers at List College kept kosher, others had never learned the rules of kashrut, and many fell somewhere in between. Some had formal Jewish education since kindergarten, others had none. From all over the country (and the world!), List College students bring diverse perspectives on Jewish practice, Jewish culture, and Jewish identity.
In our residence halls, List College students have the unique opportunity to live in a communal Jewish home, where the hallways buzz with song and smell of challah every Shabbat, where students light the hanukkiyah (Hanukkah menorah) together eight nights a year, where Jewish a cappella groups hold practices each week, and where every student offers their own unique contribution to a shared home. By living and learning together, List College students create an inclusive Jewish space of exploration, growth, and connection.
“My friends from other schools are always shocked at how everyone at List College knows each other and cares about each other. It is great walking into a home where people are always there for each other.” — Ben Gersten, Class of 2018
List College students are immersed in a thriving Jewish community that is diverse, supportive, and welcoming. With a sense of belonging that is present from the first day on campus, students feel empowered to explore, to challenge ourselves, and to move beyond our comfort zones. Students are involved in many clubs, internships, and activities across the Columbia/Barnard campus and New York City, but we all share a unique bond that, for many, is so hard to find in college. With this core community at its foundation, the List College experience is unlike any other.
List College may have been left out of the Forward’s Jewish College Guide, but perhaps this will only underline the reality that, when it comes to Jewish student life on campus, List College is in a league of its own.