Today, approximately 8% of the Northeastern undergraduate student body self-identifies as Jewish. Moreover, Northeastern has a longstanding history of providing opportunity to Jewish students. In the 1920s and 1930s, an estimated 20% of the student body was comprised of Jewish students, often the children of working-class or immigrant families who relied upon co-ops and scholarship support to afford the cost of a higher education. Northeastern was, for many years, the most popular college and graduate school for Boston-area Jewish students, many of whom grew up in the surrounding neighborhoods of Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester. Northeastern was unofficially known in Greater Boston as “the Jewish school.” After several decades of decline, there has recently been a resurgence of Jewish enrollments.
The Jewish Studies minor at Northeastern University was created in 1994-95 as an interdisciplinary program using existing courses in the departments of History, English, Sociology, Music, and Philosophy and Religion. Over the past several years, the program has expanded considerably, thanks in no small part to the generosity of the Ruderman Family Foundation, established by Mort Ruderman ’59 and his wife Marcia. From a small program offering only a minor, it has become an established program offering a minor, a Combined Major in Jewish Studies and Religion, a partnership with the Human Services Program, and an integrated BA/MA or MJEd program with Hebrew College. Faculty has expanded significantly, too, culminating most recently in the hiring of Ruderman Professor and Director of Jewish Studies Lori Lefkovitz.