As a proud Northeastern graduate from the mid-1980s, I wanted to share my experiences as a Jewish student at Northeastern to help provide perspective to today’s students and help them appreciate all that they currently have available to them at the university.
I spent my first two college years (1981-1983) at SUNY Albany, where I was a Judaic studies major and business minor. Albany had – and still has – a very strong Judaic studies department, with classes in history, language, and culture. I then spent a year studying at Tel Aviv University. Upon returning to the United States, I thought more about a focus on finance, which was not available to me in Albany. I looked into a number of schools and found Northeastern had the most to offer, especially given the strength of the co-op program.
I joined the student body at Northeastern University in January 1985. While I loved every moment of my time at Northeastern, it was not without its stresses. At that time there was no major or minor in Judaic studies, and no kosher food to be had anywhere on campus. Based on when I began my college career, I should have been a senior, but based on the coursework accepted as a transfer student, my new projected graduation date was June 1988, three and a half years away.
The problem was that Northeastern did not have classes similar to any I had taken in my previous three years. To get credit, I needed to prove that a class in Jewish history from Albany was simply a history class and I should receive transfer credit for it. I had to convince the school that a class in Hebrew language was the equivalent to one in Spanish or French. I did this for many classes I had previously taken and slowly but surely moved my graduation date up, one quarter at a time, until I ultimately graduated in December 1986. I had the support of the then rabbi at Hillel, who helped me coordinate and review curriculum on a course-by-course basis to get the credits approved. Hillel back then was a very small group located in a building on Parker Street, where there is currently a residence hall.
I am writing this note because I am proud not only of having a degree from Northeastern, but also of the fact that the focus on Jewish studies and travel abroad to Israel is now so prominent. While it has been almost 30 years, more than a lifetime for the current students, the accomplishments are impressive. The extent and depth of the classes current students can take are remarkable. The Birthright program and study abroad in Israel not only did not exist back then, but most of my class work while in Israel was not accepted as transfer credit. The ability for students to get kosher food on campus also should not be taken for granted.
To the current students at NU, I say appreciate all that you have in Jewish life and education. Take advantage of it. The programs and offerings are impressive. I know I was there 30 years ago, but in perspective, it is not all that long ago.
To the faculty, administration, and advisors that keep Jewish Studies growing and improving at NU, דובכה לכ, well done. Keep up the good work. It has made me even more proud to say I am a Northeastern grad.