Frequently Asked Questions

Jewish Life at USC

How does USC support Jewish Life and Jewish Studies?

  • USC has an extremely active Jewish community with one of the largest Jewish student bodies in the country.
  • Jewish students, faculty and staff are engaged in Jewish life and education through a number of organizations, institutes and centers:
    • USC Hillel engages over 1,500 unique USC students each year, fostering holistic Jewish identity formation across a range of informal programs.
    • The Chabad Jewish Center at USC offers students and families the opportunity to stay connected to Jewish life throughout the year, and provides Jewish students a supportive and nurturing “home away from home.”
    • The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education aims to develop empathy, understanding and respect through testimony collection, strategic partnerships, global outreach, and research on the history and prevention of genocide.
      • Holds the world’s largest visual archive of Holocaust testimony
      • The Stronger Than Hate initiative launched by the USC Shoah Foundation in 2020 empowers teens and young adults to recognize and counter hate in their own communities.
    • The USC Casden Institute supports research that aims to spur dialogue and achieve greater understanding about what it means to be Jewish in America and American in a pluralistic society.
  • USC also offers degree and curricular programs in Jewish studies, including:
    • Bachelor of Arts degree and major in Jewish Studies, offered as a partnership between Hebrew Union College and the USC Dornsife College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
      • Hebrew Union College is adjacent to our main campus and offers multiple programs in Jewish studies and religion to both HUC and USC students, including general education classes, Hebrew language classes, and numerous courses focusing on Jewish themes.
      • USC and HUC are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their partnership in 2022.
    • Jewish Studies Graduate Certificate
    • Minor in Jewish American Studies
    • Minor in Jewish Studies
    • Minor in Judaic Studies
    • MBA/MA in Jewish Non-Profit Management
    • MSW/MA in Jewish Non-Profit Management

Adjacent coursework across humanities, social sciences, education, arts, and social policy, among others.  

What else is USC and campus leadership doing to support USC’s Jewish Community?

  • President Folt, senior leaders and members of the Board of Trustees regularly attend Jewish events on campus, including Shabbat dinners and holiday celebrations.
  • In January 2022, President Folt convened an Advisory Committee on Jewish Life at USC. This committee met regularly throughout the Spring 2022 semester to make recommendations to tangibly support Jewish students, faculty, and staff.
    • In August 2022, President Folt accepted the committee’s final recommendations report. The committee will work throughout the Fall 2022 semester to develop a plan to implement the recommendations, many of which are already underway.
    • More information about this committee, its members, and its final report is available here.
  • The university also works closely with outside organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jewish Federation, and the American Jewish Committee on a number of initiatives through the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

How is USC combating antisemitism?

  • The rise of public antisemitism in the United States over the past several years has also impacted USC. Over that time, the USC community has witnessed social media attacks against our students and others.
  • USC President Carol Folt and former Board Chair Rick Caruso have clearly and publicly denounced antisemitism in multiple messages and statements. They are all available here.
  • In addition, President Folt and her team have – and continue to hold – conversations with Jewish leaders both on and off campus to learn about the history of antisemitism and determine steps to move forward.
  • These challenges have also given us an opportunity to think deeply across disciplines and domains, and led to significant work at USC in combating antisemitism, supporting Jewish life, and promoting Jewish studies across its campuses and in the community.
  • To that end, the Advisory Committee on Jewish Life at USC has made a number of proposed recommendations aimed at combating antisemitism, addressing anti-Zionism, and developing and improving processes to address harassment and discrimination online and offline.
    • This includes a new Student Commitment published in Fall 2022 which establishes a clearly articulated, student-focused campus pledge to act in accordance with our community principles and unifying values. This will help encourage civil discourse among our students on campus and on social media.

How is USC working with other universities and national partners to combat antisemitism?

  • USC recognizes that antisemitism is a globally pervasive problem – it is one of the oldest forms of hate.
  • A recent survey by ADL-Hillel shows that nearly one-third of Jewish students personally experienced antisemitism directed at them by a member of the campus community in the past year, and even more witnessed antisemitic activity on campus.
  • In early 2022, Provost Chip Zukoski and Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, Varun Soni, represented USC at a national presidents’ summit on antisemitism in higher education, hosted by Hillel International, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Council on Education. University leaders came together to collaborate on strategies to address this and other serious concerns about the safety and well-being of our Jewish students.
  • As Vice Chair of the Association of American Universities (AAU), President Folt has – and continues to – discuss this issue more broadly with the Presidents of the nation’s leading universities.
  • USC is participating in the Academic Engagement Network’s Signature Seminar Series, which brings together university and college administrators, including student affairs staff, diversity officials, and other campus professionals for online and in-person professional development to increase knowledge and awareness of Jewish identity, diversity, antisemitism, and inclusion on campus.
    • In January 2022, the AEN acknowledged USC for for its actions in supporting Jewish life and combating antisemitism.