Dovid Roetter doesn’t mind being in a tiny minority of Jewish students at Oakland University — estimated at around 200 of about 20,500 undergraduate and graduate students. As a religious Jew, his kippah and tzitzit make him easy to spot.
The Oak Park resident, 21, is studying journalism at OU and working at its TV station as an anchor. He earned an associate’s degree at OCC (where he was Hillel president), then transferred to OU. Roetter plans to start a master’s program in the fall at Central Michigan University in electronic media management and then one day to own a Jewish radio station in Michigan.
“I love a small campus with small classes where I get to know professors on a first-name basis,” he says. “I can stop by their offices and chill out. That’s what OU is.”
Roetter figured it would be easier on a smaller campus to get involved with the student radio station or newspaper. He was right: He got his own show right out of the gate.
A thriving Jewish presence on campus wasn’t topmost for Roetter when he chose OU, but he got involved and was elected president of the Jewish Student Organization, an umbrella organization for Hillel, and is vice president of Students for Israel. He says there are a few other observant Jews, but the events JSO hosts — Shabbat dinners, lunch and learns, a rally — draw a “nice mix” of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews.
Erin Ben-Moche, another OU senior, is often too busy to participate in extracurricular activities. On occasion, she’ll go to a lunch and learn with Rabbi Michele Faudem or to a J Talk, where Jewish students from area campuses get together to discuss issues of the day.
Ben-Moche of West Bloomfield, plans to pursue a journalism career. She is currently news director of OU’s radio station.
She works more than 20 hours a week providing content for WXOU. Last summer, she interned at the Chicago Tribune as a reporter. She’d like to go to Los Angeles or back to Chicago, but Ben-Moche, 21, says she feels rooted in the metro area.
At WXOU, which broadcasts from the Oakland Center building (undergoing renovations), Ben-Moche writes, edits and does on-air interviews. “This is a professional radio station. It has opened doors for me,” she says.
Heather Rosenbaum, Hillel of Metro Detroit’s adviser at OU, says it was kind of a shock coming to OU after going to MSU as an undergraduate. She is happy that Jewish students want more resources and more connection with other Jews on campus.
“We do a lot of communication with students to see what kind of events they want us to bring to campus,” says Rosenbaum, a West Bloomfield High graduate.
That OU is a commuter campus makes it more challenging to reach students, but a few weeks ago they did a Shabbat dinner at a student’s home in West Bloomfield.
“You gotta meet them where they are,” Rosenbaum says.
To that end, she is at the student center twice a week, where she helps set up tables with information promoting events. Last year, the Hillel ran an anti-bullying awareness day that won an award for best student organization-run campus event. Roetter spearheaded the event.
“Obviously, we’re thrilled to hear the new president is Jewish. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her. Our students are excited. We’re looking to see what a growing Jewish student body is going to do,” Rosenbaum says.
Main Story – Ora Pescovitz, President, OU