A New Jersey guidance counselor has started a national information network to guide Jewish students to the most hospitable college campuses.
Gary Berger’s organization, Counselor Advocacy for the Jewish University Experience, has a newly launched website (cajue.org) and a rapidly growing network of people around the country ready to answer questions about specific institutions.
Unlike existing guides to Jewish life on campus, including one compiled by the International Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, Berger’s site will offer information when events overtake the published volumes and standing websites, he said.
Berger said he is hoping to see a growing community of people providing feedback — with something like a Wikipedia process — on the positive or negative aspects of various campuses’ Jewish life. Students and parents can post their queries about the availability of kosher food, religious services, and the general atmosphere for Jewish students.
Berger is chair of guidance and student services at Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston.
He is working with some 100 other counselors from the United States and Canada, including Denise Kanrich, director of college counseling at Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union in West Orange, and Joshua Wise, director of college guidance/student life at the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth.
Berger, who said his initial motivation in launching the venture was to counteract the kind of negative experiences Jewish students have reported in recent years, also said he also hopes to be able to advocate for Jewish students on campus.
“I didn’t have any intention of doing this myself; I wanted someone else to do it,” he told NJ Jewish News, chatting in his office at Kushner. “Everyone agreed that it was a great idea, but they said their budgets had been cut and they couldn’t do it.”
Since going public with the idea in February, he has signed leaders in the college admissions field for the CAJUE board. In September, at the annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, he gathered the names of 100 people who have agreed to contribute information to CAJUE.
Berger, 38, has been involved in helping young people his whole career, serving as a synagogue youth director and as a guidance counselor in other schools.
“I see CAJUE’s role as a clearinghouse of the latest information available on campus Jewish life,” said the JEC’s Wise. “Since campuses are dealing with a transient population, it is critical to have current knowledge. CAJUE’s network of counselors and students will provide continuous updating of the Jewish services offered and flavor provided on scores of college campuses nationwide.”
Ariela Finkiel, a Kushner parent from Elizabeth, was delighted to hear about CAJUE. “This would be a great resource for parents like myself who want to be able to offer our children the opportunity to go to any college but are concerned about sending them to a school that does not have the appropriate Jewish resources,” she said.