The Best Colleges for Jewish Communities

For many incoming Jewish freshmen, the presence of a Jewish student body is crucial. Learn more about the top schools with active Jewish communities.
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Updated on August 18, 2023
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Some students seek out schools with a high population of Jewish learners, hoping to feel a greater sense of belonging. This guide explores additional factors that Jewish students should consider and explains some support services provided by colleges for Jewish communities.

Read on to learn more about local Hillel organizations, potential course offerings, and kosher food options. This guide also ranks some of the best colleges for Jewish communities based on available support services.

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Our Methodology

In the spirit of helping enliven Jewish communities in the higher education system, we've identified 15 schools that best represent academic excellence and a strong on-campus Jewish presence.

When ranking schools, we first examined Hillel International's list of the Top Jewish Colleges by Population to create a list ordered by Jewish student population alone. From there, we employed our general methodology to determine the school's academic quality,

Top Colleges for Jewish Communities

Best Colleges for Active Jewish Communities

  1. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    A private, nonprofit institution located in Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania serves over 20,000 students each year and maintains a 6-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. Penn offers a variety of campus resources and local services to support student collaboration and enrichment, including Penn Hillel, which serves the university's nearly 2,000 Jewish learners.

    Penn Hillel extends over 40 community service and advocacy groups to students, along with work-study, study abroad, and fellowship opportunities. The group also maintains partnerships with broader campus resources like the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and Penn Judaica, a repository of scholarship and research. Penn offers a comprehensive catalog of Jewish studies courses.

  2. Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY

    The oldest institution of higher education in New York, Columbia University maintains a global focus and attracts diverse students and faculty from throughout the world. Columbia/Barnard Hillel serves Columbia students and learners from nearby schools. Columbia also features an Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies.

    Through the Hillel, Jewish learners enjoy access to dozens of student groups and community initiatives related to education, religion, social justice, and international affairs. The center also hosts weekly Shabbat dinners and other high holiday gatherings throughout the year. The Hillel extends an additional network to support graduate students and provides guides for campus-based Kosher dining.

  3. Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY

    Established in 1865, Cornell University excels in science and the liberal arts. Jewish learners account for 22% of the university's approximately 24,000 students. Cornell's Jewish Studies program also administers major and minor courses of study for interested degree-seekers.

    Cornell differs from other colleges for Jewish communities by offering a Center for Jewish Living in addition to a standard Hillel. The student-run center provides social programming, religious gatherings, and a fully operational residence hall for Jewish degree-seekers. Cornell Hillel extends additional support through academic events, student clubs, internships, and social justice initiatives.

  4. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University is one of the oldest and most prestigious research universities in the world. The university operates 12 degree-granting schools in a variety of disciplines and serves just over 20,000 students each year, including many Jewish learners. An active Hillel, a digital Judaica collection, and a Center for Jewish Studies make Harvard one of the best colleges for Jewish communities.

    Harvard's Hillel supports students by hosting engaging speakers; sponsoring events in religion, arts, and culture; and cultivating a collaborative learning environment. The group records a regular podcast and provides opportunities for community service and social engagement.

  5. Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    A private, nonprofit institution, Yale University opened before the American Revolution. The university extends several resources to Jewish learners, including a Hillel, a Judaic studies program, a Jewish student alumni group, and a Jewish law students' association.

    Part of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life, Yale's Hillel administers Jewish learning courses for students, along with opportunities for religious fellowship and cultural enrichment. The center maintains a partnership with Yale's Young Israel House, which provides additional community and support to Orthodox Jewish students. Learners interested in maintaining a kosher diet on campus can eat at the Hillel's dining center.

  6. Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    Northwestern University combines theory and practice within a top-tier research environment. Located along the shores of Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, Northwestern serves nearly 22,000 learners each year. An estimated 15-20% of those students are Jewish, and the school offers social and academic resources to meet their needs.

    Northwestern's Hillel maintains an active social media presence and publishes a weekly email newsletter to keep students informed. The group provides meal and dietary information, offers additional resources for prospective and first-year students, and sponsors seminars along with other social events. Northwestern's Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies hosts lectures and offers undergraduate and graduate programs.

  7. Brown University

    Providence, RI

    A private, nonprofit research institution chartered in 1764, Brown University was among the first U.S. universities to accept learners regardless of religious affiliation. Brown serves over 10,000 degree-seekers across five different schools and professional divisions.

    Alongside the Brown RISD Hillel, Brown's Chabad House provides additional community and support for observant Jewish learners. The Chabad House hosts Shabbat dinners and other high holiday gatherings. It also sponsors a scholarly society that focuses on Jewish tradition and philosophy.

    Brown's Hillel provides social and religious opportunities for new and returning degree-seekers through learning experiences, contemplative practices, and student groups.

  8. University of Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    Founded in 1890 by local philanthropists and business leaders, the University of Chicago promotes free and open inquiry informed by the principles of diversity and concern. The university provides nearly 20,000 degree-seekers with a variety of resources and support services. UChicago is home to the Joyce Z. and Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies and several Judaica special collections.

    UChicago's Hillel supports students through leadership cohorts, engaging internships, and regular events that celebrate Jewish culture. The university's Chabad House offers informative guides and additional resources for students interested in campus-based Jewish living. Law students at UChicago can also participate in the university's Jewish Law Students Association.

  9. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Located near Palo Alto, California, Stanford University cultivates a learning environment for discovery, expression, and collaboration. Among the best colleges for Jewish communitieson the West Coast, Stanford attracts and supports a diverse student body. Approximately 10% of Stanford's learners are Jewish.

    Stanford's Hillel House offers events, learning opportunities, and student groups focusing on a variety of social issues and advocacy efforts related to peace and justice. The Hillel also manages the school's Koret Pavilion and Ziff Center for Jewish Life, which provide spaces for study and activities on Shabbat and other high holidays. Additional resources on campus include the Jewish Law Students Association and the Taube Center for Jewish Studies.

  10. Washington University in St Louis

    Saint Louis, MO

    Washington University in St. Louis has promoted freedom of inquiry through research and learning since 1853. The private research school enrolls learners from more than 120 countries across the globe, including approximately 1,700 Jewish degree-seekers. The university provides programming and student support in engineering, science and the arts, law, medicine, and business.

    Jewish learners at the school can find additional support through the WashU Hillel, a pluralistic community that helps students navigate Jewish living in an academic environment. The group provides volunteer and internship opportunities, student-led social initiatives, and study abroad trips. In addition, Washington University's Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies department supports research surrounding Judaic issues.

What Is a Hillel in College?

Sponsored by Hillel International, a nonprofit organization, local Hillels are centers for Jewish life on college campuses throughout the world. These organizations take their name from Hillel the Elder, a renowned Jewish scholar famous for his understanding of the Golden Rule. Not all schools have a Hillel, but the best colleges for Jewish communitiesgenerallydo.

Hillels support Jewish degree-seekers on campus through advocacy, cultural initiatives, and religious programming. Most Hillels host regular Shabbat events and provide space to observe the high holidays throughout the year. Many also extend additional learning experiences, internships, and social functions.

How Many Jewish Students Are Enrolled in College Programs?

Jewish enrollment varies depending on the school and fluctuates annually based on education trends. Many schools provide a breakdown of enrollment numbers based on demographics, but prospective learners may need to consult local Hillels for the most current information.

Approximately 10-25% of students at most of the schools on this ranking are Jewish. However, keep in mind that high enrollment numbers are not always the best indicator of a strong Jewish community.

What Types of Jewish Organizations and Resources Are Available to Students on Campuses?

Social and cultural opportunities, advocacy efforts, and spiritual connection are often the best resources for Jewish students. The best colleges for Jewish communitiesoffer these resources through their Hillel houses, which sponsor Jewish student groups. These organizations include study groups, food insecurity initiatives, and graduate student colloquia.

Many schools extend additional support beyond their Hillel, including through Jewish law student associations and social groups for Orthodox observers. Some schools operate dedicated residence halls for Jewish learners.

Do Colleges Offer Kosher Food Options for Jewish Students?

Some colleges provide dietary guidance and food options for students who want to keep kosher. Most Hillels offer guides to help Jewish learners navigate their diet and nutrition while living on or near campus. In addition, some Hillels maintain partnerships with their school's cafeteria and dining services to ensure accommodation of kosher dietary needs.

Some Hillels offer additional food and dining options on their own. These offerings may coincide with weekly Shabbat gatherings or observance of high holidays. In other cases, the organization may extend student groups that support student baking and delve deeper into kosher eating.

Do Colleges Offer Jewish Studies Courses for Students?

Each school on our ranking of colleges for Jewish communitiesoffers courses for Jewish learners or those interested in Judaism. These options include history, philosophy, and religion classes offered within a humanities or liberal arts department.

Many of the best colleges for Jewish communities house a dedicated center for Jewish or Judaic studies. In addition to standard classes, many of these centers offer majors or minors in Jewish studies. Some centers house archives and specialized libraries for learners interested in further scholarship and research.

Find Additional Resources

Your Guide to Financial Aid

Your Guide to Saving for College

The Student's Guide to Nutrition

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