French Students Seek Higher Education in Jewish Environment

Dean Ethel Orlian and Daniel Morris being interviewed at Radio Shalom in Paris.


Yeshiva University made headlines in Paris when Ethel Orlian, associate dean of Stern College for Women, and Daniel Morris, associate director of admissions at Yeshiva University, traveled to France on a fact-finding visit. They met with principals and directors of schools, parents, students, community leaders and journalists in three major centers – Paris, Marseilles and Strasbourg. The turnout in all the cities was far greater than expected and interest in Yeshiva University was overwhelming.

The YU team was interviewed on two radio stations, and made front page news in Jewish newspapers. In Marseille, when they were interviewed on Radio JM, the program host cried from a mix of emotions — excitement that Yeshiva University came to France and apprehension about young Jews studying abroad due to the difficulties the Jewish community is facing.

Parents and students traveled great distances to hear presentations about YU programs and requirements, and many completed applications for the fall semester. “We were treated like royalty and felt embraced by the Jewish communities we visited,” said Mrs. Orlian. The meetings were often emotional and, on some evenings students waited until 2 am to be interviewed. French students currently enrolled at YU took part in some meetings and spoke about their positive academic and social experiences on campus.

One of those students, Isaac Barchichat, was instrumental in arranging these meetings. He organized an open-house session in Paris last January to raise awareness of YU’s programs and to serve as liaison between YU and the Jewish community in France.

As a result of these efforts, undergraduate enrollment of French Jewish students for the fall semester will more than double to nearly 40 men and women.

“YU offers something that colleges in France cannot provide to Jewish students,” said Hillel Davis, PhD, vice president for university affairs. “They want a top-notch education in addition to any array of Jewish learning unequalled anywhere in the world. Only Yeshiva University can fill that need.”

Recent acts of anti-Semitism have created a hostile environment for French Jews. Some school policies, Jewish leaders say, have made it difficult for Jewish students to adhere to their traditions while attending university. Observance of Shabbat and kashrut laws is difficult and accommodations are not always made when exams are scheduled on Jewish holidays.

“We are in the business of educating Jewish leaders. We are hopeful YU can play this role for the French Jewish community by educating these young people and grooming them for leadership roles in their respective communities when they return to France,” Dr. Davis said.

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