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Religious groups ramp up new student outreach for Preview

Raindrops on the branches of a bare tree with a red-brown building in the background.
Murray-Dodge Hall
Aarushi Adlakha / The Daily Princetonian

When prospective Princetonians visited campus for the Class of 2028’s Princeton Preview, many faith-based organizations on campus welcomed them, hosting events and distributing information to welcome the next class to the campus community. The Daily Princetonian spoke to several faith-based organizations on campus to hear what prospective students look for in a faith community, and how student leaders are promoting their organization to the incoming class.

As the Center for Jewish Life and Chabad of Princeton University represent the two major hubs of Jewish life on campus, leadership emphasized the need for a variety of resources to cater to diversity among incoming Jewish students. 


Amid new investigations into antisemitism on college campuses, Chabad of Princeton’s Rabbi Eitan Webb emphasized distinguishing between “everything that is happening at a congressional level and administrative level” and Chabad’s on-campus efforts to “show the joyful side of being Jewish, and specifically at Princeton.” 

“We can push the administration to be more forceful in the face of antisemitic slurs, we can push the government, but that’s not really our bailiwick,” he said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “What we really do, what we are really good at, is taking the students, exciting them about why Judaism is meaningful, purposeful, and something they might want to take with them as they move forward in life. That’s our real mission.”

Sarah Phillips ’27 is one of the prospective student chairs for the CJL and also serves on the Chabad student board. Both CJL and Chabad do online outreach to students throughout the year and offer tours to visiting families.

“The Jewish students here all identify differently,” Phillips said. “Some come from a very religious background, some come to Princeton and it’s the first time they’re engaging with the Jewish community, and so places they feel welcome, I think, is always something that everyone’s looking for.”

As a prospective student last year, Phillips attended a Shabbat dinner at the CJL and told the ‘Prince’ that she “felt a part of the community, even when I wasn’t even admitted.” This year, CJL hosted a booth at the Princeton Preview activities fair and opened the dining hall to families during select times.

“Whenever I meet a prospective student, I always ask them, ‘what’s your question? What are you curious about? What do you want to learn more about?’ Because I can ramble on about Jewish life at Princeton for hours, because I love it so much, but I want it to be as helpful as possible for them,” she said. “There’s so many different interests and reasons why people are looking to engage in the Jewish community.”


Ryan Brunswick ’27, one of the Prospective Student Chairs for the Chabad Student Board, told the ‘Prince’ that he visited campus during Passover and ate a meal in the CJL, but did not visit Chabad. 

“I didn’t really know about its presence, but I guess now I’m sort of filling in that gap [for prospective students],” he said. Chabad hosted a booth at the activity fair and has opened up a coffee hour at their new house to welcome families to Princeton. 

“I think it’s important that people know this is a place where they can come and feel at home, because that’s really what it is, a home away from home,” Sophia Harrison Bregman ’27, the other Chabad Prospective Student Chair. 

The Daily Princetonian also spoke to representatives of the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and the Aquinas Institute, the Catholic campus ministry, two other major religious groups on campus.

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Leena Memon ’25, co-president of MSA, believes that religious communities serve a variety of purposes for incoming students at Princeton. “Whether it’s a community that’s immediately welcoming or one that just has very similar practices of their family or their home community, [religious communities on campus] are supportive and uplifting environments,” Memon told the ‘Prince.’

To prepare for the incoming class, MSA mainly relied on online outreach.

“Every year, we kind of do the same thing: first, we create a Google form. Then, we like to make sure it’s available on our Instagram so that students are able to fill it out and put their name, email, or any other contact information they may want to share. And that allows one of our current undergraduate students to get in contact with that incoming student,” Memon explained to the ‘Prince.’

MSA also identified the Princeton Instagram and Facebook pages as an opportunity for outreach, especially when the pages are featuring different student clubs.

During Princeton Preview, MSA encourages prospective students to chat with current students and gain an idea of the Muslim community on campus. They continue this theme of networking by hosting an ice cream social at the beginning of the fall semester.

Diana Hernandez ’17, the director of student affairs and alumni relations of the Aquinas Institute, the center for Catholic life on campus, told the ‘Prince’ about how students, both incoming Princeton students and underclass students in high school, have reached out about the Aquinas Institute prior to visiting or even applying to Princeton. She noted that there are a lot of students who treat religious groups as “the main thing [they] want to get involved in,” as well as those who are “starting to figure out if [religion] is something that is truly important to [them].”

At Princeton Preview, the Aquinas Institute invited families to come to daily mass in the chapel. In addition, they told the ‘Prince’ that they invite students to give parental information so they can hold an event for first-years’ parents and families once the fall semester begins. “Those are opportunities to connect with our chaplain,” Hernandez told the ‘Prince.’

The Aquinas Institute also holds a first-year retreat, where first-years are connected with upperclass students before the year begins. “They walk in already with people they know and people they connected with. We have a welcome barbecue, which is a great chance for first-years to meet everybody else and for everyone to reconnect after the summer,” Hernandez told the ‘Prince.’

Regarding the purpose of religious groups such as the Aquinas Institute, Hernandez emphasized to the ‘Prince,’ “We want people to be able to feel at home as soon as they arrive on campus. That’s true for students who are Catholic and serious about their faith, but that’s true for every student who is half interested in it as well. We want to be able to be a home for any student.”

Justin Tam is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.’

Elisabeth Stewart is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

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