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Published Thursday, April 26, 2001

Jewish students at Jesuit universities to share experiences

By MARK PRATT / Associated Press Writer

rabbi; DELETES some material to tighten; FIXES Web address. Note Wisconsin angle in 10th graf.

BOSTON (AP) -- Melanie Getreuer was a bit apprehensive when she applied to Boston College. As the daughter of a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, she wasn' t sure a Jesuit university was the right choice.

" I didn' t know a lot about BC, and I had a lot of preconceived notions, " said Getreuer, 19, a freshman international studies major. " I thought the Catholicism would be thrown in my face and I' d be forced to go to all these Masses."

Instead, she says she found an open and welcoming academic environment where she could explore and nurture her heritage.

The Newton campus this weekend will host the first Jewish Students of Jesuit Universities conference, where Jewish students from Catholic colleges across the nation will celebrate the Jewish sabbath and discuss ways to preserve and promote their faith in a primarily Catholic environment.

" There is something unique about being Jewish on a Jesuit campus, " said Ari Shapiro, a senior biology major at Boston College and one of the organizers of the conference. " This is just a way to interact and have conversations with Jews at other colleges, to build some camaraderie and to brainstorm."

Jews should feel comfortable on a Jesuit campus because the two approaches to education are similar, said Rabbi Harold White, the senior Jewish chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

" In the Jesuit tradition, students are encouraged to find God in every aspect of their education, " he said. " And that is very true of the Jewish view as well."

White, who has been at Georgetown for 33 years, said 12 to 14 percent of the undergraduate population at Georgetown is Jewish.

Boston College estimates fewer than 100 of its 8, 500 undergraduate students are Jewish.

Most of the few dozen attendees this weekend will be from BC, but students from Georgetown, Marquette University in Milwaukee, St. Louis University, and Loyola University in New Orleans also are expected to attend.

Coby Nathanson, a freshman at Loyola, said she felt " culture shock" when she left her Houston home and her strong ties to Judaism to attend college. But she has never felt uncomfortable at Loyola.

By attending the conference, Nathanson wants to learn how to galvanize the small Jewish population at the university with about 3, 500 undergraduates.

" I am looking to see how Jewish student unions have been formed, and maybe start something similar here, " said Nathanson, who is majoring in drama and communications.

Boston College' s academic reputation is what attracts most of its Jewish students, but many say they are surprised to also find spirituality and a renewed commitment to their own Jewish heritage.

Brianne Nadeau, a junior in political science, said she' s has never felt any prejudice. She is president of BC' s Hillel Jewish student organization, and she hopes the conference will help schools share ideas for how Jewish students can feel more comfortable on Jesuit campuses.

" Where am I going to find people to observe the holidays with? Where am I going to get my Jewish nurturing from? Where do I find friends that I can relate to? These are the questions Jewish students face, " Nadeau said.

The Rev. Joseph A. Appleyard, vice president for university mission and ministry, said Boston College has long welcomed non-Catholics.

" I was a student here in the 50s, and as long as I can remember there have been Jewish students and faculty members here in significant numbers, " he said, noting that there also are Islamic, Buddhist and Bahai student organizations on campus.

The three-day program that starts Friday includes Sabbath services, Talmud study at a Newton synagogue, a walking tour of Jewish Boston and cultural performances.

On Sunday, Boston College faculty -- Jewish and Jesuit -- will hold a panel discussion on such wide-ranging issues as the philosophical and theological overlap of the two traditions and interfaith dating.

On the Net

Boston College Hillel: -- org/svp/st -- org/hillel/index.htm

©Copyright 20001, Associated Press

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