More than two dozen Jewish faculty members at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and Long Beach Community College (LBCC) joined Jewish students recently for a luncheon hosted by Long Beach Hillel and the Jewish studies program at CSULB. Professors from math, history, physics and theater arts departments, among others, came together to show their support for the Jewish students at their campuses.
The event's hosts, Dr. Arlene Lazarowitz, the director of the CSULB Jewish studies program, and Rachel Bookstein, the executive director of Beach Hillel, were thrilled with faculty's enthusiastic response.
"The faculty took the opportunity to ask me about the Jewish life on campus and ways they can get involved to mentor students," Bookstein said.
The lunchtime discussion ranged from the personal to the political. One professor polled the others about what they do when they have classes scheduled on High Holidays. Another encouraged cross-listing classes that have substantial Jewish content to broaden the appeal of the major and the minor in the Jewish studies program.
The faculty and students spoke in favor of a suggestion to bring Israeli artists and academics to campus as scholars in residence as a positive way to present Israel's many facets to American students.
One of the major concerns from the faculty was the level to which students are intimidated and afraid of being publicly Jewish on campus. In southern California, the Muslim Student Association campus groups are very active, and some of the neighboring universities, such as the University of California, Irvine and California State University, Fullerton, have been the scene of anti-Israel campaigns.
LBCC Dean Farley Herzek said the networking at the luncheon energized the faculty to build relationships across departmental lines.
"We look forward to developing into a group working together to help Jewish students on campus," Herzek said.
"One of my goals as incoming director was to build the natural alliances between Jewish faculty, the Jewish studies program and Hillel. It is great to see the fruits of my labor," Bookstein said. "When Dr. Lazarowitz and I sat down to plan the luncheon months ago, we had no idea that there would be such a positive response. It is very encouraging about the future."
Student Eli Silverstein said that although he has been at CSULB for several years, he was surprised to find that some of his favorite professors turn out to be Jewish.
"I had no idea," Silverstein said. "I have had that professor for three classes, and it just never came out that he was Jewish, too."
"It was nice for us to know who is out there for personal reference, and to know who to approach if we have problem or who to go to in order to get more Jewish studies instituted in college," Beach Hillel Student Co-President Nicole Andronescu said. "It is also important to know who is out there caring about Jewish students beyond the staff of Hillel."