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A Little Boost to Some Students on Keystone State Campus

August 20, 2009
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Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., has been selected by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life for participation in its "Small and Mighty" program, which seeks out elite liberal-arts institutions where Jewish life is on the rise.

Dickinson's Hillel -- the only one chosen in Pennsylvania -- was among seven schools picked for inclusion this year; the others are Amherst/Smith colleges, Kenyon College, Wellesley College, Hamilton College, Union College and Elon University.

Dickinson has approximately 230 Jewish students, about 10 percent of the campus population, according to Ted Merwin, director of the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life, which houses Dickinson's Hillel.

The Asbells are a family from Cherry Hill, N.J., who, in addition to the Asbell Center, have supported a number of Jewish initiatives on the campus, including establishing a chair in Judaic studies; providing funds for a full-time Hebrew-language and culture professor; and giving money toward a scholarship program for Jewish students from Uruguay and Argentina.

Among other benefits, as part of the "Small and Mighty" cohort, said Merwin, the school -- which couldn't manage to get any students onto Birthright Israel trips last year due to intense competition -- will receive priority this year, as well as get assistance in planning alternative spring breaks with Jewish content.

Merwin noted that Jewish professionals on small campuses such as his can often feel isolated in their work, but "the fact that the national office is now interested in investing with small campuses" recognizes that such educational institutions "offer the same potential to explore one's Jewish identity and become more involved in Jewish life" as larger schools.

This is the program's second year in operation.

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