Saturday, December 17, 2005

Welcome to College, Jewish Population: Small

My sister found out tonight that she got into her early decision college choice, which means that she is going to George Washington University after her year-long stint in Israel. She was so excited and I'm excited for her.

Except that I did everything in my power to convince her not to go to GW.

My sister is one of the strongest people I know. She is strong in her beliefs, in her knowledge, in her actions. She knows herself and is self-assured in a way I often envy. And I think she can grow and prosper wherever she is. Really I do.

And yet, she's going to a college with a very, very small frum community. And that makes me very, very nervous. (Which is not to say that Columbia's huge frum community is all fun and games and good stuff.) But I think there's something to be said about going to a school where frum people are accepted, where there are multiple minyanim and kosher food is readily available.

But then again, she's a big girl. She knows who she is and what she wants from life. She's old enough to make her own decisions--and she doesn't listen to me anyway. It's time to let go and let her make her own destiny. (Is this what being a parent feels like? I'm too young for this.) I'll just have to sit and watch from the sidelines.


At 12/17/05, 9:13 PM, Blogger Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka said...

I'm not sure if I should say congratulations or say oy.

At 12/17/05, 9:18 PM, Blogger Masmida said...

Does she need contacts?

I know all of the frum kids there and a couple of the families in DC and the rabbi of Kesher Israel.

You're this is going to not be easy for her.

But let's hope she's tough enough

At 12/17/05, 9:32 PM, Blogger NG said...

She should go to university in Israel. There's, like, a gigantic "frum" community here.

At 12/18/05, 5:29 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Sheva - I actually disagree with your assessment. I find tons of kids from frum high schools go off to the colleges with large frum populations and are promptly led off the derech. At small schools though, I've seen just the opposite.

My theory - At the big schools, you can take your religion for granted. The davening and kosher are taken care of for you. And there are tons of "frum" kids all doing the things they shouldn't be, so it's easy to follow. But when the frum kid goes to the small school, he/she becomes the leader. They become the expert, and assume important leadership roles, which teach them to value their frumkeit.

Good luck to your sis!

At 12/18/05, 8:18 PM, Blogger Devorah said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12/18/05, 8:23 PM, Blogger Devorah said...

Josh -
I have sadly seen the exact opposite. Commuting to a school with a very small ortho community, I witnessed year and year out how every freshman class would have a handful of frum Jews, and by the end, maybe one or two would still be frum. They didn't stop being frim because everyone else did. All of their friends practically weren't frum, the Hillel director was some new-wave female Rabbi who thinks she's Ortho, and the little not being able to get into any building on Shabbos just became irksome to the point that they started swiping despite ostensibly keeping Shabbos.

Anyway, Eli7 - would lil sis travel to Balto for Shabbos? Does she have friends in College Park?

At 12/19/05, 5:16 AM, Blogger Zvika said...


I'm the new guy on the block or blogosphere, whatever y'all call it.
I completely understand Elisheva's problem with a campus with very few frum jews - I'm in school at Georgia State and believe me, there is almost no one frum 'round here (I can name everyone frum by name). How do I manage? I live in my parents' house (in the heart of Atlanta's frum community.)

There is a large frum community in Silver Spring as well as the enormous community in Baltimore (Any community is bigger than the one we have here.) Your sister could go to either place for shabbatot/chagim or maybe could rent an apartment there and just commute (although I-495 and 395 are a major pain in the neck at rush hour (like all interstates). (I know a huge number of people in Silver Spring.)

I just hope your sister is tough enough to handle it because it is definitely difficult to be frum in those situations.

At 12/19/05, 10:09 AM, Blogger Michael said...

GW? Not too many Jews there and the local community isn't all that frum/full of torah either. Any chance that a year in Israel will convince her to go elsewhere?

Devorah: From what I've heard about College Park from living here in Silver Spring the last few months, it's probably not the best place for her, either. Friends of mine from high school went there thinking that since it has a huge Jewish community there'd be no problem maintaining and growing in their Yiddishkeit. Except that while there is a huge Jewish community in College Park, I'm told that most of them end up losing parts of their shmiras hamitzvos rather than enhancing it.

At 12/19/05, 6:44 PM, Blogger Devorah said...

Michael -
Colleg Park is no haven, but is has better potential than GW and isn't all that far. Second of all there's Chabad and JLI there, so she would have more resources.

At 12/20/05, 7:40 AM, Blogger Masmida said...


Eli7, what kind of girl is she? She's sounds pretty tough and determined but if she needs a large socail group, this can be a real struggle.

The principle that's gotten me most of the way through is 'al tefrosh min ha'tzibur'

Can she get a frum roomate?


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