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2010-04-16 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


April 16, 2010  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Eckerd College hopes to build up Jewish enrollment, Hillel group

By ROBERT GREEN Jewish Press

Eckerd College is committed to expanding Hillel and its Jewish student body, President Donald Eastman said at a luncheon with some local Jewish leaders and a deputy consul general of Israel on April 13.

“We’re extremely gratified to be part of building a stronger Jewish community at Eckerd and in Tampa Bay,” Eastman said. According to college officials, the intent is to increase the college’s Jewish enrollment, and not part of any move to increase the college’s overall enrollment.

College officials hope that prospective students will hear about Eckerd through events like the lunch and from current students and alumni.

Plus, since Rabbi Ed Rosenthal took over as the executive director of Hillels of the Florida Suncoast last summer, Eastman has given him a full-time office and use of the college’s Center for Spiritual Life. Eckerd also has a faculty adviser assigned to Hillel, and allocates money from the college budget to Hillel.

The private liberal arts school in St. Petersburg, which was founded as Florida Presbyterian College in 1958, currently has about 100 Jewish students among its total of 1,840 students, Eastman said. Its chapter of Hillels of the Suncoast has about 40 members.

Eckerd College has a longstanding relationship with the Jewish community. It has hosted famed Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Elie Wiesel as a visiting professor for 17 years during its winter term. “Nobody has made more of a moral impact on this college than Elie Wiesel,” Eastman said.

Rabbi Rosenthal said Eckerd’s location and high academic standards should make it a top pick for Jewish students. “We want to make Eckerd College the school of choice for Jewish students in the Southeast. The future bodes very well for Jewish life here,” Rosenthal said.

“What we do here for Hillel can have a huge impact on the future of our community,” he added.

Rabbi Rosenthal, who is headquartered at the Hillel center at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said he has spent at least one day a week at Eckerd this semester.

The Hillel chapter’s activities include Shabbats on the beach, bagel brunches, lunch and learn meetings, Kabbalah classes, a campus Purim party, a “Scubi Jew” scuba outing, programs with the Florida Holocaust Museum and birthright trips to Israel.

Paul Hirschson, the deputy consul general of Israel for Florida and Puerto Rico, headquartered in Miami, said contacts with Jewish college students were important for his country because those students were the future leaders of the American Jewish community.

“Over 15 percent of the Jewish students in the United States are studying in Florida. That includes the University of Florida which, outside of Israel, has largest Jewish student body (approximately 8,000 Jewish students out of 50,000) of any university in the world. Florida is a critical place for us to be present, for us to invest and for us to spend time and attention,” Hirschson said.

He noted some of the recent links between Florida universities and Israel such as the University of Miami winning a bid to partner with an Israeli university to construct a medical school in northern Israel.and plans for the University of Florida dance school to spend a semester in Israel.

The Eckerd College lunch was hosted by Eastman and Jean Giles Wittner, a long-time college trustee. Guests also included Rabbi Jacob and Joanne Luski of Congregation B’nai Israel in St. Petersburg, and two representatives from the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, Executive Director Bonnie Friedman, and Financial Resource Development Director Stuart Berger. Berger is an Eckerd graduate.

Hillels of the Florida Suncoast serves the University of South Florida campuses in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, University of Tampa, St. Petersburg College, Stetson University College of Law in St. Petersburg, Ringling College and New College, both in Sarasota.

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