It's college decision time. And like most Jewish students, you’re probably thinking along the lines of NYU, Indiana, Syracuse, Maryland, Brandeis… you know the list. All are great schools with vibrant Jewish life, and all fall on our list of 2013 Top Schools Jews Choose. But choosing a college is about finding the place that’s right for you. We at Hillel International think that while you’ll do great at one of the big schools, there’s a chance these up-and-coming stars you’ve probably forgotten to look at might actually be the perfect fit:
1. Elon University: Elon Hillel has grown rapidly over the past five years. Located in central North Carolina, Elon Hillel has become an integral part of Elon University campus life. It’s part of the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, and works closely with the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and the Multicultural Center. Elon Hillel prides itself on its extraordinary spirit of inclusivity and welcoming, and it engages over 70 percent of first-year Jewish students in Jewish life on campus. The Sklut Hillel Center is intentionally designed to feel like a comfy Jewish home, and over 350 students regularly come in. To top it off? It has a dairy kitchen and an outdoor meat kitchen.
2. University of Washington: Hillel at the University of Washington is known for its innovative programs, builds vibrant communities, and works to create meaningful Jewish experiences. It’s different than most Hillels and serves two unique populations. Its undergraduate program works with the student population, and Jconnect Seattle works with graduate students and young professionals. With a diverse offering of more than 30 programs a month, University of Washington Hillel reaches over 2,500 young people each year. In addition to offering leadership development, women's programming, service trips, and more, the Karen Mayers Gamoran Family Center for Jewish Life also sports a kosher kitchen, a fitness center, a basketball court, a garden, wireless Internet and computer access.
3. College of Charleston: With more than 800 Jewish students on campus, the Jewish Student Union/Hillel serves as the center for Jewish life at the College of Charleston. In addition to Shabbat services and dinner, and other weekly programming, such as Wednesday night Meet-to-Eats, the Hillel at College of Charleston offers community service opportunities, holiday celebrations, cultural events and social activities. Jewish life at the College of Charleston is especially unique because the Hillel Center is located in the Jewish Studies Center on campus, where students take academic courses. Having the Jewish Studies professors nearby gives students many resources for learning and growing as young adults during their time at the College of Charleston.
4. University of Rhode Island: University of Rhode Island Hillel has grown tremendously in the last few years. In January 2010, it opened the Norman M. Fain Hillel Center, a 5,000 square foot facility in the heart of the University's residence hall area. The campus is laid-back and students – who come from a variety of Jewish backgrounds, mostly Reform, Conservative and Secular – are mainly interested in social activities and community service. Although there is no kosher dining plan on campus, Hillel serves regular Friday night dinners and sponsors many other food-related activities. In addition to sending students on trips to Israel, University of Rhode Island Hillel also sponsors alternative winter and spring break programs to places like New Orleans, Los Angeles and Joplin, MO.
5. University of Colorado, Boulder: Hillel at Boulder is not only the center for Jewish life, but also of learning and fun – as they like to promise. The Hillel community at Boulder aims to serve as Jewish resource, a connecter to Jews all over campus, a supplier of delicious Kosher food, a home for Shabbat and holidays, and a provider for trips to Israel. Hillel at Boulder is part of the Hillels of Colorado, the statewide Hillel system that includes Denver University in Denver and Colorado State University in Fort Collins – so the Center feels bigger than just a building.
6. Duke University: As a department within the Division of Student Affairs, Jewish Life at Duke serves as the address for Jewish life on campus. Hillel at Duke works to help students celebrate holidays, make friends, enjoy a good meal, discuss Israel, as well as connect with amazing Jewish opportunities on campus, at home and throughout the world. A highlight of Duke’s Hillel is a program for first-year students, Jewish First-Year Advisory Mentor Program (JFAM) – a fabulous gateway to being Jewish at the school. The summer before freshman year, students receive an e-mail from an upper-class peer to chat about campus life and Jewish Life during Welcome Week. And once on campus, students can expect the fun to continue with exciting and innovative programs.
7. University of Delaware: The Kristol Center for Jewish Life at University of Delaware is the focal point of Jewish student community on campus. With 2,000 Jewish students on campus – 10 percent of the undergraduate population – the Hillel community works hard to pave the way for students to have meaningful Jewish experiences. There are seven Registered Student Organizations and initiatives affiliated with University of Delaware Hillel, and it offers students the opportunity to travel on Alternative Break and Taglit-Birthright Israel trips every year. Students connect to their identities in many different ways at the University of Delaware, which is why Hillel seeks to offer so many different ways to connect with their Jewish selves.