Tower Hall at San Jose State University. (Photo/Wikimedia CC0)
Tower Hall at San Jose State University. (Photo/Wikimedia CC0)

Jewish students shouldn’t be afraid to apply to college; Remembering Marc Klein; Etc.

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College applications and Jewish identity

As a college counselor myself at a pluralistic community Jewish day school, I read with interest Kaylin Liang’s recent article about this season in college counseling (“College applicants wonder: What if they didn’t admit me because I’m Jewish?” May 31).

Liang begins by raising the issue of “self-doubt and uncertainties.” I maintain, from my professional perspective, that those are precisely the conditions to be sought and embraced during students’ college consideration processes. That’s because applications to college aren’t, at the core, meant to answer the question of “where am I going.” They’re rather meant to invite pondering of “who is the I who is going to college in the first place.” I do not phrase this lightly with my own students, and I do not mean it to be at all cutesy; I aver for them that this topic is at the center of what it means to be a college applicant.

There is an answer to the question about claiming one’s Jewish identity in the application process. If your Jewish identity is at your core or if there’s an expectation that Jewish programming will be available and accessible at the schools that students are inquiring into, then yes, address it. Otherwise, you need not.

Regardless of how students choose to answer the question, what we should be doing is reminding them lo lefached klal, do not be afraid, to reflect on and write about whatever is central to your makeup.

One of our professional obligations, I believe, is to not participate in conversations that induce identity-panic in young people who are in our charge and care. Indeed, a potent question we all face is how we will converse next year and in years to come with our students about the individual meaning they bring to the topic of how they are Jewish and what they think they’ll need to feed, support or buttress that identity  — if they need to pay that kind of attention to it at all. Ours is the job to sit with and ask questions of, to listen more than to answer and to help facilitate calm.

Steve Kahn
San Diego

Remembering Marc Klein

I was very saddened to read of Marc Klein’s passing. It was my pleasure to work with Marc (and Nora Contini) during my term as president of the J. board. As Dan Pine notes in his beautiful obituary (“Marc Klein, former editor who led J. into the digital age, dies at 75” May 31), those were challenging times for J. 

We went through a period of uncertainty as we blazed the trail for a newspaper to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, searched for new professional leadership and negotiated the controversies of covering topics that divide our lively Jewish community. I also remember many lunches with Marc in the early years of our retirement as we explored the menu of his favorite Thai spot in Oakland. Rest in peace.

Jon Kaufman
San Francisco

When great leadership is criticized

Regarding “UCB donors and professors demand reversal of Gaza encampment deal” (May 31), Cal Chancellor Carol Christ is arguably the best university leader in the U.S.

For at least a decade now, Christ’s persistent and consistent leadership has been exemplified by her meeting regularly with campus Jewish leaders at Hillel and the Helen Diller Institute for Jewish Law and Israel Studies to build trust and relationships, i.e., what leaders do in advance of chaotic crises times.

It’s remarkable that “some” UC academics and donors feel compelled to act out publicly and criticize such an exceptional, high-integrity leader who has led their very own university and delivered at the highest levels of integrity for a full decade and now does what great leaders do: They tie up all loose ends to set their successor up for success.

There is nothing inherent about leadership in being an academic or a donor — and anybody can be a cowardly critic. In the real world, leadership requires thoughtful, honest clarity, conviction and choice.

Bruce Goldberg
Berkeley Hillel board member, UCB alum and parent of a 2024 graduate

J. Readers

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