KCP Exclusive: Medgar Evers College Reaches Out For More Orthodox Jewish Students

Medgar Evers College is readying a major push to become the CUNY school of choice for Orthodox Jewish students, particularly to the large number of college-aged students living nearby in Crown Heights’ large Lubavitch Jewish community, KCP has learned.

Founded in 1970 and named in honor of the slain civil rights leader Medgar Wiley Evers, MEC was originally formed to serve the educational, cultural, and social needs of the primarily large African and Caribbean-American population of Central Brooklyn.

The school, located on Bedford Avenue two blocks north of Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights, has seen its campus complex grow considerably over the past 15 years thanks to millions in city, state and federal tax dollars. It currently has about 6,700 primarily black full-time students with less than 1% of the student body being Orthodox Jews, despite it being located a block away from the 15,000-plus Lubavitch community.

The primarily black CUNY Medgar Evers College is expected to get an infusion of Orthodox Jewish students, many of whom live in the neighborhood.
The primarily black CUNY Medgar Evers College might soon have an infusion of Orthodox Jewish students, many of whom live in the neighborhood.

Devorah Halberstam, a Crown Heights Jewish community leader associated with the Jewish Children’s Museum on Eastern Parkway, said she has been advocating for several years that MEC do more outreach to her community including holding local forums about educational opportunities, and making it easier to accept Yeshiva High School transcripts to attend the college.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams

Then earlier this year, Halberstam, Avi Lesches and Rabbi Yaacov Behrman met with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams suggesting his office work with MEC officials in doing a stronger outreach to their community.

“There was no real outreach to the local Jewish community and we have many college-aged students and young married couples going to Touro College in Flatbush and other colleges in Manhattan who could get a better education with a lower CUNY tuition right in the neighborhood,” recalled Behrman, adding Adams was enthusiastic about the idea.

These initial discussions were followed up a few weeks ago when top MEC leadership, including President Dr. Rudy Crew and Provost Dr. Augustine Okereke, met with a group of Jewish students and prominent leaders to start an open and direct dialogue with top decision makers of the college.

“The objective of this discussion, which also included an aide to BP Adams, was to begin to fully understand any specific needs and challenges these religious students face so the college can help them flourish in their studies. The beginning of this dialogue proceeds what will be robust outreach to potential future students within the local Orthodox Jewish community,” said an MEC spokesperson.

Crew said Medgar Evers College is deeply rooted in the local community as part of its mission and remains committed to creating a caring learning environment that involves human caring, high expectations and a connection to the community.

Dr. Rudy Crew
Dr. Rudy Crew

“As part of that mission, our student body must be reflective of all the different communities surrounding our campus. I am excited and invigorated by the possibilities that lie ahead for our students and our school, none more so than fostering a welcoming and productive home of learning for current and future Orthodox Jewish students,” Crew said.

News of the school doing a major outreach for more Orthodox Jewish students comes less than a week after an Orthodox Jewish students was assaulted in the MEC hallway following a science test in an alleged anti-Semitic incident.

Halberstam said Crew called her following the incident to assure her that MEC has zero tolerance for any acts against Jews or any ethnic, religious or cultural students attending the school. Rudy Crew has been exceptional in communicating and working with the local Jewish community, she said.

Adams also expressed confidence in Crew to unite and open up the school to the various communities that surround it.

“Medgar Evers College, like all of Brooklyn’s CUNY schools, should stand as a beacon of opportunity for all communities, and there is more that the college can do – and will do under the leadership of Dr. Crew – to broaden and intensify its recruiting efforts,” said Adams.