WASHINGTON (Nov. 16)
The campus population explosion in American universities and colleges has brought a “tidal wave” of Jewish students to Hillel centers throughout the country, necessitating increased Jewish religious and cultural activities in the colleges. Prof. William Haber, University of Michigan economist, declared here.
Dr. Haber, who is national chairman of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Commission, addressed the Commission’s annual, two-day meeting. He called upon the Hillel Commission to insure that the increasing number of Jewish students in the colleges are provided with “a lifetime certificate of adequate religious and cultural instruction.”
Three experts at the meeting agreed that Jewish undergraduates are struggling between “a revived acceptance of Judaism” and an insufficient knowledge of what Judaism stands for. Rabbi Robert Gordis, a leader in the Conservative synagogue movement, decried the “gross misunderstandings” which, he said, “have led Jewish youth to believe that Judaism is merely the beginning of a Judeo-Christian tradition.”
“The differences between Judaism and Christianity,” said Rabbi Gordis, “far outweigh their similarities. Unless Jewish education emphasizes the unique and distinctive character of Judaism, we face a threat not of assimilation but of becoming a community of non-Christians instead of understanding Jews.”
Dr. Gordis’ views were echoed by Rabbi Maurice Pekarsky, of the University of Chicago, senior campus director of the B’nai B’rith Hillel staff, and Prof. Louis Gottschalk, of the University of Chicago, a member of the Hillel Commission. Each urged that the Hillel campus program stress the fundamentals of Judaism “to provide students with a sense of Jewish direction.” The Jewish community, said Dr. Gordis, “must be increasingly concerned with how many minds, not feet, enter a Hillel house on the campus.”
A proposal for the establishment of national Hillel religious and advisory councils was advanced by Rabbi Benjamin M. Kahn, Hillel national director. He declared that, by involving intellectual leadership that has a mature awareness of Jewish purpose, “the Hillel movement will be better able to encourage enthusiasms for Jewish cultural life.”