New Pitt group focuses on Jewish graduate students

New Pitt group focuses on Jewish graduate students

A new student-run organization at the University of Pittsburgh will be one of the first to unite Jews of widely varying graduate school studies.
Jewish Pitt Grads is the University’s newest graduate student organization, founded by students with the help of J’Burgh, Pittsburgh’s social and professional network for Jewish graduate students and young professionals. Its first event will be a happy hour on Saturday, Nov. 7, at Doc’s Place in Shadyside.
“The goal of these programs is to retain young Jews to our city. We want to bolster them and network them into the community,” said David Katz, director of J’Burgh.
The students agree; it is all about networking.
“The main reason we started this was to meet people,” said Monica Caine, a physical therapy student originally from New Jersey and one of the group’s heads. “We knew ethnic ties would be a great way to connect with people. In graduate school, you don’t really get to meet people outside your field, and this will help people network.”
Benji Gross, from Squirrel Hill, an occupational therapy student, said he’s excited to see how the group evolves.
“What we do now is geared towards the future. Building a social network is so important,” he said.
There are 500 to 800 Jewish graduate students at Pitt, according to Katz. In addition, the law school has about 40; the medical school, 60.
Jewish Pitt Grads currently has 14 members, “on paper, according to Gross, but others have expressed interest in the group.
Established groups such as the Jewish Law Students Association and The Maimonides Society already exist for Jews in the law and medical schools, “but the rest [of the graduate schools] have maybe 100 [Jewish] students total, and not enough Jews to start their own groups,” Katz said. “So we decided to empower them.”
Ironically, Jewish Pitt Grads traces its origins to Carnegie Mellon University.
“We talked to advisors there to start a group for each school, then they told us they were looking for ways to bridge gaps between schools and this seemed like a perfect way of doing that,” Katz said. “The students loved the idea, and it was really successful.”
Their sponsored activities from last year included an Israeli wine tasting and a lunch with CMU President Jared Cohon, Giant Eagle CEO David Shapira, and others.
“I think this group will play an important role in attracting more grad students and young professionals to Pittsburgh,” Katz said. “The question we have to ask is how do we take people from 21 to 29 and help them to become leaders in the Jewish community. We need to show them what they can be involved in, and Pittsburgh is leaps and bounds ahead of any other city in the country in engaging young adults and grad students. They are forming a really exciting group here in Pittsburgh.”

(Derek Kwait can be reached at