Community engagement of underrepresented college students: Ultra-orthodox students in Israel as social change agents

Zvika Orr*, Edith Blit-Cohen, Maya Vardi, Bina Be'eri, Daphna Golan-Agnon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article aims to contribute to the emerging body of research on community engagement of college students from minority and underserved groups. It examines community engagement programs involving students from the Jewish ultra-Orthodox society in Israel, a minority group that is clearly underrepresented in the higher education system in Israel. Using qualitative methods, this article analyzes how ultra-Orthodox students experience their community engagement and perceive its effects on themselves and on their communities. The findings illuminate how the students' social interactions during their volunteer work enhance meaningful learning despite considerable challenges and dilemmas. Ultra-orthodox students constantly cross social and cultural boundaries, and their choice to enroll in higher education is often delegitimized in their communities. Their ability to contribute to their communities through collegiate community engagement programs helps justify their decision to pursue an academic education. This ability also empowers them in the challenging liminal state between the ultra-Orthodox society and academia. Hence, community engagement helps reinforce the academization of the ultra-Orthodox society. This case study proposes that student volunteers from underrepresented minority groups can bridge the gap between academic institutions and their minority communities, serving as agents of societal change.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number100782
JournalLearning, Culture and Social Interaction
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Community engagement
  • Higher education
  • Minorities
  • Service-learning
  • Social change
  • Underrepresented students


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