How Christian Colleges Nurture Jewish Students 

A bronze sculpture outside the Chapel of St. Joseph at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia offers a novel insight about the campus’s all-embracing catholic character—surely one of the reasons why it is ranked tenth on the U.S. News and World Report’s 2022-2023 edition of Best Colleges in Regional Universities North, a list that includes 181 institutions.

 Allegories of Judaism and Christianity. Bronze sculpture at St Joseph's University, Philadephia. (Creative Commons)
 Allegories of Judaism and Christianity. Bronze sculpture at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. (Creative Commons)

Called “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time,” the 2015 carving shows two figures holding and reading together the holy books of Judaism and Christianity, symbolizing the 151-year-old university’s Christian and Jewish connections.

That Christians and Jews thrive on a Christian college campus in a country where antisemitic incidents averaged 10 per day last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, has got to be one of the most woefully underreported facets of American life.

So it may come as something of a surprise that, compared with secular institutions, Christian colleges tend to be more nurturing of Jews.

“We have found that Jewish college students are especially open to receive the love and attention of Christians and local churches,” says the Chosen People Ministries, a 128-year-old Jewish organization active in 18 countries and devoted to Jewish evangelism.

“Christian students have the greatest opportunity to engage their fellow Jewish students,” the Jewish ministry adds. “This means that if your church has many college students, or you know students who are involved in Christian student groups, they are in the best possible position to share the love of Jesus with Jewish students!”

A 2015 report by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University pointed to a handful of colleges where “particularly high levels of hostility toward Jews or Israel” occurs.

Titled “Anti-Semitism and the College Campus: Perceptions and Realities,” the report is a snapshot of everyday antisemitism on college campuses in the U.S. and Canada, particularly within the California state system and some land-grant universities in the American Midwest.

“Institutions that honor the Judeo-Christian tradition and celebrate Western civilization tend to resist the academic decay, and attendant anti-Semitism, now plaguing many first- and second-tier campuses,” writes Rebecca Sugar in an article in The Wall Street Journal. “Christian institutions frequently offer the classical-liberal education most of academia has abandoned. Words such as ‘God,’ ‘truth’ and ‘morality’ haven’t been reimagined. Free speech is honored. Jews and Israel are generally respected.”

Singer shares telling statistics sourced from the Israel on Campus Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based organization devoted to promoting Israel’s image on American college campuses: Of the 225 antisemitic incidents that occurred across the 1,100 U.S. campuses that the coalition monitors, just two took place on Christian campuses—and neither was violent.

Singer’s article visits five U.S. Christian colleges that she says are exemplars of Christian-Jewish relations, including Hillsdale College in Michigan, whose sole Jewish faculty member, a classics professor named Joshua Fincher, estimates that at any given time there are no more than 20 Jewish students on campus.

The article quotes Rabbi Zachary Zysman, director of Jewish student life ministry at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), a prominent Jesuit institution that is the oldest center of higher education in Los Angeles, that LMU’s mission statement has “a lot of shared language” with Jewish texts. This is a thriving, evolving, supportive, religious, cultural community,” he says.


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