A time of learning and growth, college should be an adventure. Students from all walks of life are brought together in higher education, where they can learn not only from their instructors but also from one another.
The Jewish community on campus is a focal point at many universities, and we’ll explore some of the top choices for Jewish students here.
Now, more than ever, Jewish communities need our help and celebration, and students need places where they can be themselves without fear of repercussion.
The Anti-Defamation League and Hillel.org, among others, are doing excellent work to develop vital resources for Jewish students.
Some of today’s most prestigious universities in the United States also happen to be home to exceptionally vibrant Jewish communities.
The following institutions are among the best in the United States, and they also provide excellent support for Jewish students.
Services such as a campus Hillel, Kosher dining options, study abroad programs in Israel, and many others may be available.
The percentage of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students at each institution included in this article was obtained from Hillel.org, making them among the best in the country at the time of writing.
This article is meant only as a reference and a jumping-off point. Before deciding on a college, you should give some thought to what you value most in an education and what you hope to gain from a college experience. No top 10 list is going to be perfect for your needs.
A list of the top schools for Jewish students.
Best colleges for jewish students
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, nonprofit institution with a large student body (over 20,000 annually) and a low faculty-to-student ratio (6:1). Penn Hillel, which caters to the university’s nearly 2,000 Jewish students, is just one of many on-campus and off-campus services available to help students connect with one another and grow as individuals.
Penn Hillel provides students with access to more than 40 different volunteer and advocacy groups, as well as work-study, international study, and fellowship programs. The group also works with other campus organizations, such as the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and the Penn Judaica library. A wide variety of Jewish studies options are available at Penn.
Opening its doors before the American Revolution, Yale University is a private, non-profit institution. Hillel, a Judaic studies program, an alumni network of former Jewish students, and a Jewish law students’ association are just some of the support networks made available to Jewish students at this institution.
Hillel at Yale is a part of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life and runs Jewish education programs for students as well as religious and cultural events. The center collaborates with Yale’s Young Israel House to give Orthodox Jewish students even more opportunities for socialization and resources. Those students who wish to keep to a kosher diet while attending school here have the option of eating at the Hillel.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago, which was established in 1890 by local philanthropists and business leaders, fosters open inquiry informed by diversity and care. There are many facilities and services available to the nearly 20,000 students enrolled at the university. The Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies and other collections of Jewish-related materials can be found at the University of Chicago.
Hillel at the University of Chicago provides students with leadership training, internship opportunities, and weekly events to celebrate Jewish culture. To help students learn more about Jewish life on campus, the university has a Chabad House that provides helpful guides and other resources. At UChicago, there is also a Jewish Law Students Association for Jewish law students to get involved with.
Washington University in St Louis
Since its founding in 1853, Washington University in St. Louis has worked to encourage academic freedom through its programs of study. Around 1,700 Jewish degree-seekers are enrolled at the private research school, which accepts students from over 120 countries. Among the many academic disciplines offered and supported by the university are those in engineering, the arts, the hard sciences, the humanities, medicine, business, and the legal system.
The WashU Hillel is a welcoming and inclusive Jewish community on campus that provides resources and guidance to Jewish students at the university. In addition to trips and internships, the organization also facilitates student-led social initiatives. Research into Jewish topics is also encouraged by the Washington University department of Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies.
University of Connecticut, Hartford
Jewish students at UConn have access to a variety of campus resources as well as local community groups. UConn Hillel and the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life are vital to maintaining this equilibrium.
Many academic resources and connections to community-wide projects are available to students through the Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life.
Seminars, lectures, and other cultural events are regularly held at ALEPH: The Institute of Jewish Ideas. The point is to bring attention to and spread knowledge of Jewish values.
UConn Hillel is more conveniently located on campus. The Trachten-Zachs Hillel House has resources for students, including information on parking, Kosher dining options, and religious services.
This is a safe space for students of all backgrounds and orientations to express themselves and feel accepted at UConn.
UConn provides its students with access to Sefaria, a one-of-a-kind online database, to meet their needs for specialized academic information. To put it simply, this resource allows students to read any and all Jewish texts they could ever want to read.
If you’re looking to brush up on your Torah knowledge, the program also lets you add a daily Torah reading app to your web browser.
UConn is known for its strong athletics program, active Greek community, and annual Spring Concert that has featured artists like Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent in the past.
Sarah Lawrence College
Sarah Lawrence College, located north of Brooklyn, beyond Manhattan, and slightly east of Yonkers, is one of the top 60 colleges in the country in terms of the percentage of its student body that identifies as Jewish, according to the website Hillel.org.
College students can feel comfortable being themselves at this institution because of its well-known European teaching style, its refusal to use the SAT, and the long list of successful graduates.
The Hillels of Westchester provide services to five colleges and universities in the area, including SLC. They welcome students of all faiths to participate in their community service projects, social events, and religious services.
HOW offers a free Birthright trip program to students of Jewish heritage between the ages of 18 and 32 who are interested in learning more about their heritage.
Dr. Glenn Dynner, a National Jewish Book Awards finalist and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, and Carol Zoref, a winner of the prestigious Harold U. Ribalow Award for Fiction, are just two examples of the distinguished scholars who make themselves available to SLC students in a mentoring education format.
The cherry on top is that SLC grads can put their names next to those of such notables as Alice Walker, Vera Wang, J.J. Abrams, Carrie Fisher, and Barbra Walters. All the prestige of New York City’s educational system, with none of the stress of city life, is what makes SLC the ideal place to study.
Throughout its history, Brandeis University has been linked to notable figures like Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, and its namesake Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish man to be nominated to the Supreme Court.
Not only are these people fantastic conversation starters, but they also demonstrate the school’s dedication to academic rigor, social activism, and Jewish identity.
The Jewish Experience, a news website covering Jewish events around the world and in the Jewish community, is linked from the homepage.
Signing up for the monthly Jewish campus newsletter will keep students informed of noteworthy faculty, alumni, and events.
Researchers like Dr. Shula Mola, who is investigating the history of Ethiopian Jews in Israel, and LGBTQ activists like Rabbi Solochek, who is working to improve the lives of Jews in Israel, may be featured in alumni newsletters.
This R-1 institution, which boasts a number of Nobel laureate alumni, provides an unrivaled opportunity for Jewish students who want to use their academic passion to advance understanding across a wide range of Jewish life.
There are several research centers located there, including the Steinhardt Social Research Institute and the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies.
The American Jewish Population Project is one of the largest studies of its kind, and it has just recently become available to the public.
This school’s Hillel on campus and commitment to academic excellence make it a top choice for Jewish students.
Touro College in New York City is the epicenter of Jewish life in the United States and the largest private university with a Jewish heritage in the country. The urban university provides degrees in Jewish Studies and exchange opportunities to Touro College in Israel. Touro is closed on all Jewish holidays, and teachers are advised to avoid giving exams even on minor fast days. There is a sizable Jewish population at this university, and the campus is home to an active Israel-supporting club called Students Supporting Israel. There does not appear to be any anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic sentiment among the student body.
Courses in 20th century German Jewish philosophy, Yiddish culture, and Israeli national cinema are just a few examples of the wide range of topics covered by Emory University’s renowned Jewish Studies program. In addition, there is a kosher meal plan available to students at this Atlanta-area university, and despite the presence of a campus SJP chapter, the student body is generally accepting of Zionist students. Dinners for students on Shabbat and holidays are also provided by Hillel and Chabad.
Binghamton University, State University of New York
There is a strong Judaic Studies program at Binghamton University, and students who are interested in Israel can minor in the subject through the work of the Center for Israel Studies. Binghamton University has a kosher kitchen where students can get hot meals three times a day, and kosher food is available for purchase in all dining halls. The first two days of Passover, as well as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are observed as university holidays. Hillel provides funding for more than a dozen student-run organizations, and Chabad holds “Shabbat 1800,” which claims to be the largest annual student shabbat meal in the United States. Furthermore, there are Friday night services led by students from the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox faiths. The school’s SJP was once very active, but it has since fizzled out. A student wrote in March 2017 that she was “appalled” by the treatment of Jewish students elsewhere in the country but not on her own campus. All of our student groups—including those that represent African Americans, Asians, Blacks, Latinxs, Muslims, and Jews—are interconnected and work together to foster a welcoming and diverse campus community. ”
How Many Jewish Students Are Enrolled in College Programs?
The percentage of Jewish students enrolled in a school is highly dynamic, shifting each year in response to educational tendencies and demographic shifts. Prospective students may want to contact nearby Hillels for the most up-to-date information on enrollment numbers by demographics, but many schools already provide this.
The percentage of Jewish students ranges from about 10% to 25% across the schools represented on this list. It’s important to remember, though, that a large student body isn’t necessarily a sign of a thriving Jewish community.
Do Colleges Offer Kosher Food Options for Jewish Students?
Kosher students can find resources and meals at some universities. When it comes to Jewish students’ diet and nutrition while residing on or near campus, most Hillels provide guides to help them along. In addition, some Hillels work together with the campus dining hall to provide kosher options for students.
There are Hillels that provide their own dining facilities and kitchens. Weekly Shabbat gatherings or celebrations of major holidays are possible contexts for these gifts. To further promote kosher eating and encourage collegiate baking, the organization may also consider expanding student groups that do so.
What types of Jewish organizations are on campus?
Students interested in attending universities known for their thriving Jewish communities should look into the diversity of Jewish student groups offered there. A quick search of any university’s website should yield this information. There are many Jewish student organizations at Stanford University. These include Challah for Hunger, which bakes and sells bread to raise money for international relief efforts, TAMID, which connects Stanford undergraduates to the Israeli business/investment community, and Jewish Queers, a meet-up for Jewish LGBT students.
If you are looking for a school with a strong Jewish community, one early indicator is whether or not it has a Hillel organization. Hillel has chapters at over 550 different colleges and universities, making it the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. The Hillel community at Penn boasts a staggering three thousand members. Hillel membership will naturally be lower at elite liberal arts colleges like Colby, Kenyon, and Middlebury due to the smaller student body (despite strong proportional Jewish representation).
Do they offer a Jewish Studies major?
Both the University of Michigan and Ohio State University, both members of the Big Ten Conference, offer more than a hundred different courses in Jewish Studies, making them ideal for Jewish students who want to either make it their major or have a wide variety of electives from which to choose. Hebrew, Yiddish, Jewish Thought and Practice, Jewish History, and Holocaust Studies are just some of the many Jewish studies courses available at Ohio State. The Frankel Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan is a one-of-a-kind academic resource for studying Jewish photography, Jewish music, and Jewish mysticism, among other topics.
As with any field, many other institutions put their own stamp on the study. The modern Jewish experience is the sole focus of Syracuse’s program. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, students at Wellesley are able to explore the connections between Jewish thought and other disciplines, such as art, politics, and philosophy. Popular institutions with excellent Jewish Studies departments include the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Vassar College, Emory University, Bucknell University, Oberlin College, and Trinity College.
You, as a Jew, have your pick of a number of excellent educational institutions catering to your community’s specific needs; we’ve provided some pointers for picking the right one, and you should definitely do your own research to find the school that’s right for you, but we can help you get started.