June 30, 2016 – (Memphis, TENNESSEE) – In partnership with our friends and colleagues at Rhodes College, Jewish Community Partners is proud to announce the formation of a Hillel at Rhodes College, which will launch with the fall 2016 semester.
Around 70 Jewish students are enrolled at Rhodes, and while a Jewish Student Organization has had an established presence on campus for years, their ability to reach and engage students has been limited by an absence of dedicated staff and a shortage of resources.
Jewish Community Partners/Memphis Jewish Federation funding, along with some money directed from student activity fees, will provide for a Hillel director and robust programming, overseen by an advisory board of leaders from the Memphis Jewish community.
“We are honored to partner with Rhodes College to enhance the Jewish presence on campus,” said Laura Linder, JCP’s president and CEO. “JCP will bring all of the resources of the broader Memphis Jewish community to the partnership, enabling students to connect with Jewish life on campus and with our close knit Jewish community.”
“For a long time I have felt that since there’s a growing number of Jewish students at Rhodes College that we’re underserving them,” said Sherry Weinblatt, director of the Morris S. Fogelman Jewish Student Center at Hillel of
Memphis, on the University of Memphis campus. “There’s been a JSO there for a long time, but putting the name Hillel on it will be a very positive move in attracting more Jewish students. We feel that it is definitely a positive situation.”
Attracting young Jewish people to Memphis, and perhaps particularly to an undergraduate experience at Rhodes, has the potential to make a significant impact on Memphis’ Jewish community. At JCP’s recent Annual Meeting, Rhodes College president Dr. William Troutt was invited to the podium to announce the new Hillel. He also told the audience that 90% of his college’s students come from outside the Mid-South, and that 40% remain here after graduation.
The large number that stays here after college is no accident. Two years in a row, Rhodes was named America’s #1 Service-Oriented College by Newsweek magazine, a direct outcome of the college’s programmatic efforts to engage its student body in grassroots, community-focused activism and initiatives. Not surprisingly, the students build emotional and intellectual attachments to these causes, and a strong bond to the city is formed.
“We are very excited about the formation of the Hillel at Rhodes and are grateful for this opportunity to collaborate with Jewish Community Partners,” said Dr. Troutt. “Hillel will provide additional campus support for our current students and enhance our efforts to bring extremely talented students from across the country to Rhodes.”
Rhodes College, which sits on 100 acres in midtown Memphis, has been named to the Princeton Review’s inaugural lists of “Colleges That Create Futures” and “Colleges That Pay You Back.” The college also regularly garners accolades from U.S. News and World Report, Forbes and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges and is profiled in the prestigious book Colleges That Change Lives.
There’s an interesting Jewish history at Rhodes, as well. Abe Fortas, a prominent Jewish Memphian and who became a member of The Supreme Court in 1965, graduated from the college in 1930, when it was known as Southwestern.
“It is definitely important to me to have a place to be Jewish on my college campus,” said Zoë Feder, a young woman from Austin, Texas who will begin her freshman year at Rhodes in the fall. “Throughout high school, I was very involved in my youth group and I think it’s an important part of my Jewish faith to have some time to spend with other Jewish people. I think whenever a person is looking to move to a new place it’s important for them to find a way to feel at home in the new location. Finding a religious organization can be a crucial part of that.”
Memphis is an attractive city for Jews and Jewish families. Last year, more than 40 Jewish individuals and families chose to relocate to our city, drawn by the many beautiful and dynamic synagogues, and one of North America’s finest Jewish community centers. The growing Jewish community is close-knit and civically involved in Memphis in many ways, and its many amenities will become a part of each Jewish student’s experience while at Rhodes.
Sweetening the pot, Rhodes has recently established a scholarship program for Jewish students, making it even easier for students to find a rich college experience in Memphis. Chances are, they’ll fall in love with our charms and stay a while.