5 Things You Need to Know to Reach Jewish Students on Campus
We have found that Jewish college students are especially open to receive the love and attention of Christians and local churches. Most universities have a number of Jewish students. Many of these students are not especially religious and do not affiliate with Jewish campus groups. There are also many Israelis coming to the United States to attend our universities as well. You will find these students eager to enjoy a home-cooked meal and the opportunity to meet friendly young people in a new city. So, here are five suggestions for reaching out to Jewish students on your local campus.
#1 Christian Students Are the Key
Christian students have the greatest opportunity to engage their fellow Jewish students. This means that if your church has many college students, or you know students who are involved in Christian student groups, they are in the best possible position to share the love of Jesus with Jewish students! This can be done by encouraging the student groups to particularly befriend Jewish students—especially if they come from out of town. You might also host a home meeting of students that would be attractive to Jewish students, such as a Friday night Sabbath meal. It could be a fun night for the students and especially for the Jewish young people who would sense the love and interest of your family and fellow students.
#2 Engage Students Around the Jewish Holidays
Holidays provide unprecedented occasions to engage spiritually with Jewish students because many think more about God at those times. For example, Passover beautifully foreshadows Jesus through the Lamb of God! You might host a Messianic Passover in your home. Your Mission to the Jewish People can help you with programs, recipes and prayer. We join hands with Christian campus groups to celebrate Passover, emphasizing the fulfillment in Jesus. This spring semester event is also a great way to educate Christian students about Jewish life and the rich Old Testament heritage we have through the Messiah.
#3 Show Up – On Campus
As with all students, the Jewish young people struggle with studies, time management and social life and some are often reluctant to leave the library! Jewish students might be open to attend a more formal campus Bible study, but probably would be more willing to join an informal and friendly group of fellow students studying the Bible over lunch. This means we need to be intentional about inviting Jewish students to join us. If you have a regular ministry on a campus, then try and find out where Jewish students congregate and try to mingle and get to know them as people. Once you show you are interested in them as a person they might be more open to hear about what you believe.
#4 Be Intentional
There are many ways to engage Jewish students, but having a plan can be a great help in guiding your conversations. You can watch the testimonies of younger people or those who became believers in college found on our outreach website, ifoundshalom.com. We also have a book available that will train you in reaching Jewish students that was written by one of our experienced campus ministers. We have a number of tracts, booklets and specifically a book entitled Isaiah 53 Explained which are appropriate for Jewish students. When and if they show a deeper spiritual interest, you can give them these wonderful materials.
#5 Listen and Learn
Sometimes we are asked what Judaism teaches about a given topic such as faith, belief in an afterlife, forgiveness of sin and more! Our Chosen People Ministries website provides many of these answers, but so many Jewish young people do not know a lot about their own faith, and so, their beliefs might be somewhat untraditional. Jewish students may be agnostics or atheists or into eastern religions. It is best to respond to the student’s specific views and questions about God, Jesus and religion because each person is different. This is why listening uncritically is so important. Allow the Jewish students to tell you their beliefs, which might very well be quite a variation on what traditional Judaism teaches. Listening is the way you earn the right to speak!
Ask a lot of questions and dialogue with Jewish students so that they know you care and are willing to learn from them. Your knowing what they think about spiritual truths will help you have conversations about spiritual matters that engage them.
These five suggestions are a great way to get you started reaching the under-reached Jewish student populations near you. You can also find out about the Jewish population of your local college or university by searching for the school on Hillel.org.