2016-12-21 / Voice at the Shore

Stockton recognizes Krauss with an honorary degree

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER
Voice shore editor


Rabbi Aaron Krauss was a driving force behind the establishment of what is now Stockton University. Rabbi Aaron Krauss was a driving force behind the establishment of what is now Stockton University. Rabbi Aaron Krauss of Beth El Synagogue received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Stockton University during its winter commencement ceremony on December 18.

“Rabbi Aaron Krauss has a long history with Stockton, including convincing New Jersey’s leaders that a four-year college was needed in South Jersey, which led to our founding,” said Stockton University President Harvey Kesselman. “He also assisted in obtaining the land for Stockton’s campus, served on the Board of Trustees, and as an adjunct professor in Jewish Studies for over 20 years.”

In addition to acknowledging Krauss’ role in Stockton’s creation, Kesselman also recognized the rabbi for his many years of community activism and service.

“He has shown an incredible commitment to inclusion, building bridges between the clergy and citizens of the region and promoting harmony and equality for all.”

For all these reasons, he noted, “Stockton is honored to bestow on Rabbi Krauss the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.”

“It’s very nice, very gratifying,” said Krauss regarding the degree. “I’m very grateful for the acknowledgement of the efforts we put in [to establish a college] all those years ago.”

The rabbi said he got involved in the effort to establish a local college in the 1960s after reading “a small article in the paper” about a woman named Elizabeth Alton, who was trying to bring a college to the area. Although Krauss did not know Alton, he immediately called her to see how he could get involved.

“I felt strongly that we needed a college in this area. I offered my support, and to help her organize support,” said Krauss.

Krauss became part of a five-person committee that worked diligently to gain support for the college.

“We felt strongly that this would be a great thing that would help keep young people in the community,” he noted.

With no local four-year college, college-bound teens were forced to leave the area and many did not return. “We were losing our young people,” he recalled.

The committee met with government officials in Trenton and even Washington, D.C.

“There wasn’t a lot of support initially, but people eventually came around. I remember getting help from the state assembly, the senate and especially the governor at the time, Dick Hughes.”

Krauss recalled a pivotal meeting at Hughes’ home in Princeton. “I remember him saying: ‘If we have the money, we’ll get it.’” Later, Krauss received a phone call from the governor saying the college was being established, that the state had allocated the money for it.

“It was quite an exciting time, bringing the college here,” said Krauss. He added that he is very proud of the institution of higher learning that Stockton has become, and of its continuing growth even in the face of the local casino industry’s decline.

Beth El Synagogue will hold a luncheon to celebrate Rabbi Krauss’ honorary degree on March 26, said the rabbi. The entire community is invited to attend. Beth El will also be establishing a Rabbi Krauss Stockton scholarship, he added. 

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