Posted by Katherine Cavanaugh
Lollie Abramson has just taken up her seat as the new coordinator of Jewish Student Life and Interfaith Programming at Skidmore. Abramson is still in the process of navigating her position, but she hopes "to try to put into place any activity, educational or religious experience that the students want."
The conflict over this year's Big Show falling on Yom Kippur added to the hectic nature of her first couple of months on the job. "The point of Yom Kippur is to re-examine the self and ask for forgiveness," Abramson said. Rather than dwell on the hurt feelings over the date of TV on the Radio's performance, Abramson chooses to see this event as an opportunity for dialogue, and increased understanding and awareness among all different groups on campus.
Abramson is focused on creating and sustaining an environment of mutual respect and tolerance, and she complimented the way that the student body chose to respectfully discuss the issue with the help of Fight Club. "Talking is good, but listening is even better," Abramson said.
Abramson is impressed by Hillel and Shabbat dinners on campus, but she does hope to make changes to Jewish life on campus. Two specific ideas since her arrival include a birthright trip to Israel for Skidmore students and a program for Skidmore students to study abroad in Israel. "The interest is there," said Abramson, "it will take some time." There are budgeting and organization issues at this time, but there are already some ideas in the planning phase.
Before arriving at Skidmore, Abramson worked for 32 years as a public educator for the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. When she started there in the ‘70s, there was a great deal of resistance in society to the idea of mainstreaming, or integrating, people with disabilities into the community. Through a variety of education programs, such as skits, puppet shows and presentations for students of all ages, Abramson strove to help people better understand different disabilities and overcome stigma.
Abramson was tempted from retirement by the opportunity to combine her passion for increasing acceptance, her love of her Jewish heritage and the prospect of working in an "invigorating" college environment. Although she loves college students and living near a college town, you aren't likely to run into Abramson at a restaurant in downtown Saratoga Springs. It's not because she doesn't support her local economy (she frequently attends concerts at SPAC), but simply because she's a very good cook.
Abramson's other interests include gardening in the summer, quilt making in the winter and reading all year round. As a resident of Schuylerville and a member of the greater Saratoga community, Abramson appreciates Skidmore's presence. She's attended many lectures on campus and worked part time in admissions. When she used to interview potential Skidmore applicants, Abramson would ask them the names of their three favorite books. "It's come full circle," she said, "I'm asking Skidmore students for book recommendations again."
Abramson is interested in any ideas about enhancing Jewish life on campus, or a book recommendation. " I am here and available," Abramson said. Her office is located in Case 309.