The Transfer Portal for Jewish College Students

Every day this week, another college athlete has announced that they are transferring to another school. The “Transfer Portal” can be a powerful tool for athletes seeking better opportunities and environments that align with their goals and values. Athletes evaluate the situation around them and decide whether the school is still a good fit. 

My heart goes out to the tens of thousands of Jewish college students who face threats daily and a lack of administrative support on their current campuses. All one has to do is Google Columbia, Yale, Ohio State, Emory, and many of the presumed “jewels” of the University of California and California State University system.

Just as athletes may transfer to find a program that better fits their skills and aspirations, Jewish students should have the option to seek out universities that prioritize their safety, well-being, and ability to practice their faith freely. Immediately.

Unfortunately, too many Jewish students today are confronted with antisemitic incidents, a failure of university leadership to address these issues, and an overall campus climate that is hostile and unwelcoming. As I see it, the athletic transfer portal and the Jewish Student Transfer Portal align here.

Much like athletes who transfer to find a program that aligns with their talents and goals, Jewish students should be able to identify universities that better fit their religious and cultural needs. 

This could mean finding a campus with a thriving Jewish community, robust support systems, and a demonstrated commitment to combating antisemitism. This could also mean a campus with sufficient courage and leadership to keep schools open rather than close them down or pivot to online learning in the face of mobs who preach hate.

Athletes often cite a “toxic environment” for choosing to leave. Looking at quads from New York City to California, this seems an apt description for the development of tent cities hostile to one group of students – Jews.  

Jewish students should be able to leave campuses where they feel unsafe or unsupported. When universities fail to address antisemitic incidents or create an inclusive atmosphere, students should have the option to seek out institutions that prioritize their physical and emotional well-being. Students must receive whatever administrative support is needed to help facilitate the transfer. Should the college choose not to cooperate, the Federal government can withhold funding and grants using its Civil Rights authority.

The transfer process allows athletes to find environments that foster their growth and maximize their potential. Similarly, Jewish students should be able to transfer to universities that nurture their academic, spiritual, and personal development, free from the constraints of a hostile campus climate.

I recognize this idea comes with challenges. One key difference between the athletic transfer portal and the potential transfer option for Jewish students is the level of institutional support and resources available. While the transfer process for athletes is often well-established, with clear guidelines and dedicated staff to assist in the transition, the same infrastructure and support may still need to be created for Jewish students seeking to transfer.

Universities and policymakers must recognize the urgent need to address this gap and provide Jewish students with the same resources and guidance as their athletic counterparts. This could involve creating dedicated transfer offices, streamlining the application and enrollment process, and ensuring that financial aid and scholarship opportunities are available to facilitate a smooth transition. 

The larger Jewish community, including college donors, Federation leadership, and political action committees, can provide both assistance and a sense of public support to drive urgent adoption of this notion. After all, many leaders attended these very same institutions.

The “Transfer Portal” concept has empowered countless college athletes to find better environments that suit their needs and aspirations. It is time to extend this same opportunity to Jewish college students who face threats, discrimination, and a lack of support on their current campuses.

And let’s be clear: there is a competitive risk for US higher education institutions. Just last week, the combined presidents of every college in Israel sent an open letter inviting students to transfer to accredited institutions in Israel with zero loss of credit or risk of delay. At the same time, Brandeis and Yeshiva University offered similar offers to US students. 

The market wants these students. Whoever adopts first and fast will get to educate the next generation of Jewish leaders.  

By naypongstudio – Free use with photo credit
About the Author
Dan is a veteran public relations, political communications and media strategist. He founded Full Court Press Communications 20 years ago. He is also the host of Mindful Work - a podcast at the intersection of Mindfulness, Jewish Thought, and Business. He resides in Israel.
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