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October 31, 2016 6:33 am

Philanthropists Must Support Jewish Studies on College Campuses

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Brown University. Photo: Will Hart via Flickr.com.

Brown University. Photo: Will Hart via Flickr.com.

Many American colleges and universities have come under fire as a result of an increasingly anti-Israel atmosphere and an uptick in antisemitic incidents on campus. Combined with rampant assimilation and millennials drifting away from Judaism, an active Jewish presence on campus is beyond important.

At the vanguard of promoting Jewish life at universities are philanthropists such as Elie Hirschfeld, a devoted alumnus of Brown University and the school’s Jewish Studies program. Elie, a real estate developer, and his wife Sarah recently gave Brown $3.5 million to renovate the school’s Judaic Studies building.

People like Elie understand that Judaic studies don’t just influence how Jews live and react to the world, but how the world reacts to the Jewish community and the Jewish state. Brown University’s Judaic Studies program places particular emphasis on the history and culture of the state of Israel, and calls upon students to explore Jewish civilization from the past to the present. This curriculum allows students to defend Israel using facts and figures, and to counter the lies of student hate groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

Elie Hirschfeld and donors like him must be commended for supporting Judaic studies on campus.  Thankfully, the Hirschfelds are not alone in their understanding that Jewish life needs a strong foundation in Jewish learning. The Jewish community must continue to come together to ensure that pro-Israel students have the resources, support and learning opportunities they need to advocate for Judaism and the state of Israel.

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