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Digest of Public Opinion on Jewish Matters

[The purpose of the Digest is informative. Preference is given to papers not generally accessible to our readers. Quotation does not indicate approval.-Editor.]

Exception to the criticism levelled recently by Dr. Stephen S. Wise against the Jewish college youth is taken by the “Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.” Dr. Wise had declared: “Not one in one hundred of the young Jews in American colleges and universities is frankly a Jew. He is an alien element, a child of a daring race, without ideals or vision. Not five per cent of these students go to the synagogue or link themselves in any way to the Jewish religious life. I can see why Christians look askance at this.”

Replying to this the “Chronicle”, in its April 29 issue, says:

“We don’t know what Dr. Wise means by being ‘frankly Jewish’. A Jewish boy or girl goes to college primarily to acquire an education or a technical training for some profession. During his class and study hours he has no occasion to be frankly Jewish or frankly anything else but a student seeking knowledge, which to us is quite ‘frankly Jewish’. It is only in his leisure hours that the student can give time and attention to extra-collegiate activities and this the Jewish student is doing with relation to things Jewish in a manner that is reasonably satisfactory. In our own Wisconsin state university at Madison, we are informed by Rabbi Sol Landman, director of the Hillel Foundation, that over fifty per cent of the Jewish student body, nubering over five hundred, is actively identified with some feature of the Jewish work of the Foundation, and that over eighty-five per cent of the Jewish students attend various Jewish meetings at the Foundation halls. Inquiry from the Jewish students themselves discloses the information that the number of Jewish students who keep themselves aloof from everything Jewish may be counted on the fingers. The situation at the University of Wisconsin is duplicated at Illinois. Ohio, and Michigan, where the Hillel Foundation has established student centers. Conditions in the eastern universities should be even much better for they contain a much larger percentage of Jewish students.

“As to the Jew being an ‘lien’ element in the colleges, we do not know what that means except perhaps exclusion from Christian fraternities, which purely social problem has been solved by the creation within the past decade or so of more than fifteen national Jewish fraternities that we know about Dr. Wise takes a ‘crack’ at the Jewish fraternity saying they are ‘worse than the others.’ We can assure him they really are no worse. The Jewish fraternity has accomplished the very thing that Dr. Wise desires. It has made the Jewish student ‘frankly a Jew’ by identifying him officially with a distinctly Jewish social organization.

“To the argument that the Jewish fraternities ‘exclude Jews whose parents and grandparents were not born in the United States or who may be of Russian Jewish or Polish Jewish origin’, we challenge Dr. Wise to name one of the many national Jewish fraternities that pursues such a policy in all its chapters.

“But suppose some Jewish fraternity did exclude all Jewish boys whose grandparents were born in foreign lands. It would have a logical right to do so according to the social standards set in the big world outside. Does every Jewish social organization admit every Jew ipso facto? Why should boys in colleges be expected to revolutionize the whole social system by creating an idealistic democratic fraternity?

“The Jewish student, says Dr. Wisc, is ‘without ideals or vision’. To which we will simply retort that there isn’t any section of an American student body with higher ideals sand greater vision than is possessed by the Jewish boys and girls in our universities today. And we will add to that categorical assertion that these ideals are Jewish ideals and their vision is Jewish vision. The fact that our Jewish students do not go about the campus shouting at every passerby ‘I am a Jew’ does not condemn them as being un-Jewish. As to the percentage of college students that ‘go to the synagogue or link themselves in any way to the Jewish religious life’, statistics of universities where there are Hillel Foundations show that the student percentage of attendace at religious worship is far greater than it is among their parents at home.

“If there is any ‘problem’ in our Jewish student life, it is the lack of Jewish interest of the parents of the college boy and girl and the indifference of the Jewish communities themselves.”

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