College, Connections, and Congregations
By ISJL Education Fellow Julia Kunis
Getting a college education is a priority for many of us. These days, Jewish students are pursuing all kinds of degrees. On campus, Jewish students have resources such as Hillel and Jewish studies programs where they can get social and academic support. All of these resources are important to have on campus and have the ability to transform any Jewish student’s college experience. But what about off-campus? How can your congregation offer support to current Jewish college students? The following 3 ways can help strengthen your congregation's ties to local universities and help Jewish young adults make Jewish connections all year round!
If you ship two professors, is it a scholarship?
Students often run into financial hardship. Even a small amount of money can go a long way. You can have multiple scholarships or just one; any amount of money, indeed, makes a difference. At a synagogue in Long Island, they dedicated a small scholarship to a religious school teacher who had passed away. Students wrote essays surrounding a topic that he was passionate about (finding the extraordinary in the ordinary), students submitted essays, and the winners were announced shortly after. Part of winning the scholarship was that the synagogue dedicated a Friday night Shabbat service to winners before the school year started. They sent winners off with not only a scholarship, but with an understanding that their Jewish community values and supports them in continuing their education. Not only that concept but also how they will always have a space to come to explore their Jewish identity throughout college.
It’s a shindig, y’all.
Free food? Guaranteed connections and fun? Really, for college students, the mention of free food sells them on coming to pretty much any event, at least at my university that was absolutely the case. Connect with the local Jewish organization on a campus near your congregation and start talking about hosting or even sponsoring an event for them either at their college or at your congregation. By hosting an annual event, you are sure to have familiar, and new faces come and are able to advertise more about what kinds of support and various events your congregation offers college students, all while connecting at a fun, Jewish event.
Did I volunteer? Or was I voluntold?
Volunteering is an important way to give back to the community. Allowing space for students to volunteer with your congregation at local organizations upholds a plethora of Jewish values and allows them the opportunity to give back to the community in which they are studying. In addition to volunteering, offer a mentorship program! Crafting such a program where college students can come and be mentored by a leader in their Jewish community, will help them connect with not only your Jewish community but their Jewish identity. As an added bonus, your congregation can even contact their Jewish (or Religious) studies program to see if college credit can be applied to their volunteering ventures and mentee journey!