Jewish federation seeks to influence college students


August 04, 1994|By Reported by Frank P. L. Somerville

Baltimore's Associated Jewish Community Federation, working with all branches of Judaism locally, has created a new division to promote Jewish religious and cultural interests among college students.

Called Jewish College Services (JCS), the agency will also help high school students select a college and prepare for campus life.

"College students are a unique population," said Richard M. Lansburgh, board chairman of the community federation. "It is during these years that young people begin to determine what form their religious identities will take. It is our responsibility to reach out to them at this critical time in their lives."

Assimilation of American Jews into the non-Jewish population through marriage, conversion or simply lack of interest, with the consequent loss of their religious and cultural identity, is a concern of religious leaders of all the major Jewish traditions in the United States -- Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist.

The assimilation trend is being countered on some college campuses by successful efforts to have Jewish holidays officially recognized, kosher kitchens established and Judaic studies added to the curriculum.

Frederica K. Saxon has been appointed president of JCS, which began operating July 1 at the Jewish Community Center's Northwest Baltimore location, 5700 Park Heights Ave.

"We're very excited about the new agency," Ms. Saxon said. "It has the potential . . . to bring together students of all Jewish denominations, no matter what their level of interest and involvement.

"We will also help strengthen the multicultural campus community by supporting Jewish life on local campuses."

Some of the plans of the agency, she said, are to start new Jewish student groups at Maryland colleges and support ones already functioning, assist in the recruiting of members and organize classes in Jewish studies.

Ms. Saxon said JCS will work with the Inter-Campus Council, a group of student leaders, to develop community-wide programming.

She announced that Stephanie Gurwitz will be the JCS director. Information: 542-4900, Ext. 203.

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