BY DEBORAH MOON
Parents of college-aged students will have the opportunity to talk about their concerns and hear about strategies and available resources from a pediatrician and two Hillel directors.
Finding Balance for College Parents will feature insights from pediatrician Dr. Erika Meyer, the mother of three college students; Greater Portland Hillel Executive Director Hannah Sherman; and Oregon Hillel Executive Director Andy Gitelson. Whether students are at home or on campus, the panel has ideas to help parents help their offspring.
“Parents have voiced that they want us to continue to do what we can to keep their students connected and safe,” says Andy. “Hillel has never been more important than now. We know that spiritual outlets like Hillel can help to provide a sense of calm and skills/tools for students to cope with all that life is throwing at them right now.”
The Oct. 19 Zoom program is the first in a series of facilitated conversations (see below) requested by parents and college students after a summer series on school re-entry. Many parents requested follow-up conversations to be held once the school year began.
Dr. Meyer will help parents cope with the challenges of having college-aged children living at home – either attending classes remotely or taking a gap year. She will also offer guidance to help parents deal with their own stress when their kids are on campus.
The Hillel directors will provide support and resources and share how Hillel is safely building community and connecting students during virtual fall terms on Oregon’s campuses.
“My goal is to assure parents that even though life on our campuses may look different this year, Hillel is still here to be the Jewish home away from home for Portland college students, even if that home is now virtual,” says Hannah.
Many students are living on campus at Lewis and Clark College and Reed colleges, even though most of their classes are online. Classes are also primarily remote at Portland State University, which is essentially a commuter campus, and most students are staying away from campus for this term.
“At Lewis and Clark College, we have piloted a few ways to engage students in person,” says Hannah. For example, for the new JIY (Jew It Yourself) program, staff and student leaders hand out goodie bags on campus tailored to an online program for everyone to participate in together. “We’ve given out Shabbat bags with electric candles and grape juice boxes and a Sukkot bag with ingredients for students to make their own edible sukkah.”
Weekly challah delivery is available for students who sign up in advance. Weekly virtual programs have featured Shabbat services, havdallah and virtual game nights. In addition, PDX Hillel built a sukkah on the Lewis and Clark campus “as a symbolic representation that even if we may not all be physically together, we can still celebrate Jewish holidays on campus.”
At the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, about 90 to 95 percent of the classes are offered virtually, and the majority of sophomores to seniors are living at home or elsewhere off campus. About half to three-quarters of freshmen are living in on-campus housing.
A Hillel survey of students at UO and OSU revealed three main themes: take COVID seriously and adhere to the University/CDD/State of Oregon Guidelines for masks, social distancing, etc.; they would love in-person small get togethers but generally didn’t want events that would attract large crowds; and they miss being able to regularly connect with friends and feel the isolation
Oregon Hillel has held virtual meet-ups for students, virtual book clubs, virtual Mitzvot-voter registration programs, small in-person connections (either one-on-one socially distant meet-ups or up to nine students and staff connecting outdoors), and individually packaged Shabbat and holiday meals. “We have averaged 70-75 UO Shabbat meal deliveries and 25 OSU Shabbat box deliveries,” says Andy, as well as 90 Yom Kippur dinners and break-the-fast boxes. “In all, we have engaged and personally connected with 193 UO students and 68 OSU students.”
Programs are confidential and not recorded so parents can feel free to share real world issues.
Oct. 19, 7 pm
Finding Balance for College Parents
Whether your college-aged student is living at home, on campus or taking a gap year, this is a year like no other. Talking to others in the same experience can help.
Register at: jewishportland.org/community-calendar/finding-balance-for-college-parents-1600886142
Nov. 10, 7 pm
Finding Balance: Mental Health Challenges for Kids and Families
Hear from other families struggling with these issues and get tips for coping. Panelists: Dr. Allan Cordova, The Children’s Program; Dinah Gilburd, Jewish Family & Child Service; Rabbi Barry Cohen, community chaplain; and Mel Berwin.
Dates to be Determined
Finding Balance for Parents of:
• Preschool: Panel to include representative from The Children’s Institute; Dinah Gilburd, LCSW, Jewish Family & Child Service; and the director of one of Portland’s Jewish preschools.
• Middle school
• High school
• Students with special needs
Finding Balance for College Students
Panel to includea top administrator from the University of Oregon and either Portland State University or Lewis & Clark College.
For more information on upcoming programs, email Rachel Nelson, director of educational initiatives at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, at firstname.lastname@example.org.