There are some interesting religious and cultural challenges that can arise. Details:
New York Medical College was planning to change its affiliation to Jewish from Catholic when an employee approached Rabbi Moshe D. Krupka in the cafeteria, voice raised and finger wagging, and demanded, “When you take over, will I be able to eat my ham sandwich here?”
A nervous hush fell over the room on that day two years ago. Some students and workers had protested the impending takeover by Touro College, while others were just nervous, unsure what to expect. The college officials giving Rabbi Krupka his first tour were mortified by the confrontation, but curious about his answer.
The rabbi, a senior vice president at Touro, cut the tension with a most rabbinic reply: “It depends.”
“On what?” the man asked.
“On whether you like ham,” the rabbi answered.
Institutions of higher education switch religious affiliations, as New York Medical College did nine months ago, so rarely that there really is no playbook to follow. It has meant addressing countless wary questions as they arise, including where to install mezuzas in doorways — 108 so far — and where people may be allowed to carry a cup of coffee.
Some teachers and students worried about a loss of identity; others said Touro lacked the prestige to be a suitable sponsor. But as Rabbi Krupka’s reaction suggested in that cafeteria exchange, the shift has been subtle for most people. “There was a lot of speculating and worrying,” said Matthew Pravetz, a Franciscan priest and a professor of anatomy who has been at the medical school since 1982. In reality, he said, the biggest change may be scheduling classes around Jewish holidays, “but I don’t think anyone minds having more days off.”
Students wondered if they would find the library locked on the Jewish Sabbath, but it remains open — no one staffs it, but the lights work on timers, and the Internet connections stay on. When officials met to choose holidays, Rabbi Krupka said, “we got to Good Friday, and people assumed we would cross it off the list.” But he added, “We decided there was no reason not to keep it.”