Look Out For
By Samantha Dubrinsky,
BJF Director of Community Impact
When I was a student at Birmingham-Southern College (longer ago than I’d like to admit), there were about seven Jewish students, including me, on campus.
It might seem odd to some that a Jewish student would choose to go to a small liberal arts, Methodist-affiliated college in Birmingham. For me, and those Jewish students who are on Birmingham-Southern College’s campus now, it doesn’t seem odd at all.
Though the vast majority of students on campus are not Jewish, there is no doubt that open-mindedness and acceptance is a large part of Birmingham-Southern’s culture. And almost six years after I’ve left campus, I can say that this is even more important to the college now based on some recent work I’ve done with staff and students.
Birmingham-Southern’s Jewish student population is still small. There are between 12-17 Jewish students on campus today out of about 1300. However, the presence of these students is far from small.
Recently, I met with BSC’s Associate Director of Development Sarah Kate Roberts, who I graduated with from BSC, and she has made it her mission to provide Jewish students with the resources, time and attention they need to make an impact on campus.
We had lunch with some of BSC’s Jewish students, students who are taking a Hebrew class at the college and some students from Miles College who have been interested in learning more about Judaism. Sarah Kate, along with BSC Chaplain Julie Holly, made all students feel welcome and encouraged them to participate in Jewish life, no matter their background. Plans were discussed for upcoming events and those events are already taking place.
Just a few nights ago, BSC’s small, but mighty Jewish student group hosted a challah making class. At 6 pm the night of the class, I received an excited text from Sarah Kate with pictures from the class. “We had a lot of different students come. I think they really enjoyed it!” she wrote.
Sarah Kate, who recently found out she has Jewish relatives, is even attending Temple Emanu-El’s Rejewvenation class, hosted at the Levite Jewish Community Center, which serves as a “Judaism 101″ class. To have staff that are devoted to students’ interests — so much so that they are willing to give up their own time — makes all the difference and is part of the reason why BSC’s Jewish student group is thriving.
It’s the attention to individual students that sets Birmingham-Southern apart from other schools. And, it’s this investment in students — no matter their background, religion or race — that makes it not odd at all that a Jewish student would attend a small liberal arts school with an even smaller Jewish student population.
And, BSC staff are also working to recruit Jewish students. One way they are doing that is by accepting applications for the Abroms Scholars Program, which awards two $5,000 scholarships to Jewish students who meet certain criteria. If students accept the scholarship, they are expected to play a role in moving the Jewish student group forward.
Jewish students might not consider Birmingham-Southern. “It’s too small,” some may say. Or “Why would I want to go to school where I grew up?” others ask. But, I’m telling you, Birmingham-Southern College is one to watch out for. The school and its Jewish students are making things happen.