Recently, The Birmingham Jewish Foundation announced the opening of a new fund by donor Martin Freeman to provide scholarships for Jewish freshmen entering Auburn University.

    This fund reflects a BJF strategy to bring more young Jews to Alabama and to encourage Jewish students from Alabama to attend schools in-state.

    Martin, a Maryland resident and an Auburn graduate from the 1970s, also opened a Foundation fund to assist Auburn's Hillel in providing Jewish enrichment activities for its student population. In addition to opening the Auburn University Jewish Scholarship Fund, Martin has agreed to match the first $5000 donated to the scholarship fund by other donors between now and December 31, 2014.

    One of the first to answer Martin's call was Atlanta resident Robert Moser. Robert, a New Jersey native and flight instructor for an international airline, attended Auburn from 1966-1970 because of the opportunity to receive a degree in aviation management.

    Robert served in the US Army reserves and was both a student and a flight instructor during his time at Auburn. In the late 1960s Auburn had an Alpha Epsilon Pi affiliate fraternity on campus. AEPi is a national Jewish fraternity (recent discussions have begun to reactivate Auburn's AEPi chapter). As a slightly older student, Robert was an associate member of AEPi and over the years he has remained in touch with many of his Auburn fraternity connections.

    Knowing that Robert was an Auburn grad, a friend sent him an email about the new Auburn scholarship fund. Robert decided a gift to this fund would be a wonderful way to honor the memory of one of his Auburn friends, Mike Kanter, and to encourage more Jews to share his wonderful experience at Auburn.

    Since Robert's days at Auburn, Temple Beth Shalom was opened in 1989 and Auburn's student population has more than doubled in the last three years to 125. Of course, as many sports fans know, Auburn's new Head Basketball Coach is Bruce Pearl is Jewish. He was an active member of Knoxville's Jewish community during his tenure as University of Tennessee's Head Coach.

    Martin and Robert both value their years at Auburn and see the importance of growing Auburn's Jewish student population. "I feel like when I was at Auburn, there was not a significant number of Jews. The fact that Jewish life in Auburn is currently expanding there and the Jewish community is growing -- that is encouraging!" said Robert.

    Calling all alumni and friends of Auburn: If you would like to help grow the Jewish community at Auburn by making a gift to The Birmingham Jewish Foundation's Auburn University Jewish Scholarship Fund -- and get it matched, contact Birmingham Jewish Foundation Executive Director Sally Friedman at 205-803-1519 or sallyf@bjf.org.

    Photo is of Jewish Auburn students and faculty at a recent Passover Seder. At the back left is new basketball coach Bruce Pearl.