With the very active Office of Multicultural Student Services and the numerous culturally based events taking place on campus, Ferris has made it clear that it encourages diversity. However, Dr. Barry Mehler, a history professor at Ferris, believes one group has been largely overlooked.
“There’s little Jewish representation on campus,” Mehler said. “There’s nothing. I could name off the number of Jewish faculty members on my hands and still have fingers left.”
The lack of any Jewish focus on campus puts Ferris in the minority. While most colleges in the state actively seek Jewish students, Ferris makes no effort to expand on its Jewish population, nor does it offer students the opportunity to gain insight to Jewish traditions or culture. This is unlike many surrounding schools that have Jewish Studies programs, the most notable being the program at Michigan State.
Mehler has taken it upon himself to attempt to build a larger Jewish community on campus. Currently, he, along with other Ferris faculty and staff, hosts a book club that discusses “Jewish Women Jewish Men” by author Aviva Cantor, which discusses the effects of a patriarchal culture on the Jewish community. He has also proposed other outlets of learning to the university.
“I offered to teach a course on biblical Hebrew,” Mehler said. “That was two years ago. There wasn’t much interest then, but the interest for it has been rising.”
Mehler said in order to gain a larger Jewish population on campus, Ferris needs to actively seek Jewish students.
“The university doesn’t make the effort to bring in Jewish students,” Mehler said. “There’s a huge conference in Detroit that colleges go to recruit Jewish students, but Ferris has never gone, while nearly every other college in the state has. How are we supposed to get Jewish students if we don’t present ourselves as an option?”
Not only does Ferris not actively seek to enroll Jewish students, but they have also made no attempt to cater to Jewish students already on campus. Ferris is one of the few universities in the state without a Hillel-an organization for the enrichment of Jewish culture on campus, and it offers few kosher meal options for students.
Dr. Mehler’s book club takes place at noon on the last Friday of every month in FLITE 405. All students and faculty are welcomed to attend. A free copy of the book “Jewish Women Jewish Men” will be provided to those who attend.