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Building Community in Transition: A New Group for Parents of College Students

Parents of college students met for Havdalah and desserts at the home of Elissa and Howard Fishman.

When the kids leave for college, it can often leave parents feeling disconnected from their previously tight-knit communities. But two BJ members who recently experienced this, Nadine Rothman and Alice Greenberg-Sheedy, are working to change that.

Brought together by the common experience of having navigated their respective children’s transition to college and being away from home, Nadine and Alice share their journey toward founding a new havurah at BJ (a small, self-organized group based around shared interests or demographics) specifically for parents like themselves.

“For many of us who don’t have other kids who are still in high school or middle school, it felt like we didn’t have a place anymore, to feel very grounded and connected,” Nadine said, whose daughter Julia is a sophomore at American University.

The impetus for forming this group was always present, but Alice and Nadine were particularly driven by the events of October 7, underscoring not just the need for connection but the profound impact of community support during particularly tense times on college campuses for Jewish students.

“It was an opportunity for parents to talk about how they were experiencing the repercussions, the aftermath, of October 7 with their own selves and with their kids,” Nadine said.

Alice Greenberg-Sheedy, whose daughter, Eva, attends Tufts University and is studying abroad this semester in Denmark, feels the same.

“I had no idea that there were so many parents feeling the same way or similarly,” she said. “Being Jewish on campus, even before October 7 was not so simple for a Jewish college student.”

Nadine shared how Julia was deeply engaged with the BJ community from a young age, and in turn that also gave Nadine a sense of community among other parents, but when Julia left for college it brought to light the absence of a similar support system for parents of college-aged children within the community. This realization prompted Nadine to envisage a platform where such parents could find solace and connection.

Alice’s desire to build this group is similar, though she lived in New Jersey until 2022 and joined BJ when Eva was in college.

After October 7, the challenges Jewish college students face and, by extension, their parents, became even more apparent. The initial event they hosted centered around discussions of Jewish life on college campuses and proved to be an effective forum for parents to voice their concerns, share experiences, and find common ground.

The group’s inception is more than a response to a specific event; it’s an acknowledgment of the ongoing need for community and support as families navigate significant life transitions.

As the group plans future activities, including social gatherings and initiatives to connect with college students, the focus remains on building a strong, informed, and supportive community.

This is especially pertinent in today’s context, where the need for solidarity and awareness is more pronounced than ever.

If you’d like to get involved, reach out to Nadine and Alice.