Jewish Journal

Left Hanging

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Apr. 5, 2001 at 8:00 pm

Sharon Kupferman, a junior at Cal State Northridge, was one of 11 students left "hanging in the air" last fall, when the statewide university system abruptly canceled its overseas study program in Israel.

She is 20 years old, majoring in child development, with a minor in Jewish studies, whose family lives in Diamond Bar. She has been active in B'nai B'rith, Hillel and Jewish Community Centers and has always wanted to study in Israel.

Kupferman, who has many relatives in Israel and has often visited the country, knew that studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem "would further my education and my love of the Jewish community and Israel," she wrote via e-mail.

She had finished her summer Hebrew language ulpan and was getting ready for the regular fall semester, when one or two days before the start of classes she was told about Cal State's cancellation of the program.

"Everyone was left hanging in the air," Kupferman recalled. "We were to go home immediately, and they would do all they could to have us leave immediately."

The Cal State international program director "was not very nice to us at all ... and unhelpful," Kupferman complained.

Her parents now became responsible for her tuition cost, previously assumed by Cal State, amounting to $3,000-$4,000. (The money was later refunded by Cal State, together with all of her other expenses.)

Despite the considerable pressure, all but one of the 10 other students decided to stay in Israel and continue their studies in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

"I knew that nothing would make me leave," she wrote. "I have a supportive family, as well as relatives in Israel."

Kupferman transferred to Tel Aviv University for the fall semester and returned to Hebrew University for the current spring semester. She praised both universities for their help in adjusting tuition fees and course credits.

As for personal concerns, "I can say that I feel completely safe in Israel," she wrote. "I believe as long as you are careful and stay away from the dangerous places, you are fine. It is like any other country that has bad areas you stay away from. Here people know who is the enemy and are aware of the situation."

The decision by Kupferman and her friends to stay in Israel got a mixed reaction. "Cal State was not thrilled, but the universities here were happy," she wrote. "We got mixed emotions from friends and family."

For the future, Kupferman plans to stay involved with Israel and the American Jewish community. One choice, after finishing graduate school, is "to return to Israel, which is a high priority on my list, and teach English or something along those lines," she wrote. "If I stay in the United States, I will become an active educator in the Jewish community ... I have not chosen a specific path. I am leaving my options open."

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