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Cal State Student Caught Between Intifada’s Hammer, University’s Anvil

April 2, 2001
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Sharon Kupferman, a junior at California State University’s Northridge campus, 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.

Kupferman, 20, is majoring in child development with a minor in Jewish studies. 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 the 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 she was told about Cal State’s cancellation of the program just a day or two before the start of classes.

“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.”

Her parents became responsible for the nearly $4,000 cost of Kupferman’s tuition, previously assumed by Cal State. Ultimately, the money was refunded by Cal State, together with Kupferman’s other expenses.

Despite the considerable pressure, all but one of the 11 Cal State students decided to stay in Israel and continue their studies in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

“I knew that nothing would make me leave,” Kupferman 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 the Hebrew University for the current spring semester. She praised both universities for their help in adjusting tuition fees and course credits.

“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 option after 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.”

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