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After Katrina, a Madison Tulane student heads to Hebrew U

By Erin Cohen
of The Chronicle Staff

September 23rd, 2005

After returning from a three-month visit to Israel this summer, Michael Felknor, 19, had no idea that he would be returning so soon.

But Hurricane Katrina helped to steer the Madison native back to the Jewish state – this time as a student at The Hebrew University.

Felknor came back from an extended stay in Israel on Aug. 15, which included his participation in birthright israel, a 10 day free trip for 18-26 year olds.

A junior majoring in English at Tulane University, he was preparing to return to New Orleans for the fall semester. But then came Katrina.

He never flew back because, but by that time, Felknor said, “Tulane had already delayed classes by at least a week. It was pretty clear that the hurricane was going to hit New Orleans, so I canceled the flight.”

At home, when it became obvious he wouldn’t be attending Tulane at all this fall, he began “thinking about going to UW-Madison” for the semester, and even went to an orientation there.

But then a “friend from Tulane called,” Felknor said, and told him that “all six major universities in Israel are accepting students” affected by the hurricane.

After reading about it online, Felknor discovered that he could attend Hebrew U with a full tuition scholarship. “The offer of the Israeli universities was better than any American [school],” he found, where in order to attend he would still need to pay the equivalent of his Tulane tuition.

It “worked out well” for Felknor, who said that he was previously interested in attending Hebrew U through a program at Tulane, but the school had “suspended that program when the intifada broke out.”

Now, Felknor will spend his fall taking classes including Israeli literature, the Bible and English literature, as well as a Hebrew ulpan program. He is working on making sure the credits will transfer back to Tulane.

Felknor has already arranged through a friend for an apartment when he arrives in early October. He is looking forward to the experience of living in Israel, rather then being “mobile all the time,” as he was during the summer.

Though Felknor plans to return to Israel when he finishes college, he hopes to return to Tulane after this semester is complete. “[I have] plenty of friends at Tulane and I would like to graduate with them,” he said.

But for now, though “under the circumstances, I would hate to feel happy about it … I missed Israel, and now I get to go back,” he said.