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Convention of Reform Rabbis Gets Program on Attracting College Youth

A five-point program of action by American Reform Judaism to attract college youth and Jewish intellectuals into the ranks of Jewish life was proposed here today at the opening session of the 76th annual five-day convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Rabbi Leon I. Feuer, CCAR president, told the Raform rabbis that “our college youths constitute the most tragically and wastefully neglected area of American Jewish life.” He urged that attention should be paid also to the “growing number of Jews on the faculties of our colleges and universities” who should “provide us with a tremendous reservoir of intellectual energy.”

He told the rabbinical delegates that there were an estimated 300,000 Jewish students on American college campuses and that the total amount spent by Jewish organizations for college programs was about eight dollars per student. “Unknown numbers of our young men and women are wandering in the limbo of Jewish religious apathy, ignorance and disinterest when at least some of them might be forming the vanguard of a vigorous and creative American Judaism of tomorrow,” he said.

INTENSIVE STUDY OF JEWISH CAMPUS POPULATION RECOMMENDED

He proposed the launching of an “intensive study” by the CCAR and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations of the Jewish campus population to determine the “religious and learning needs of Jewish students and teachers.” He proposed also the sending of rabbinic scholars and teachers to college campuses to conduct religious services, establish Jewish study programs and engage in discussions with Jewish faculty members on Judaism, theology and religion.

He also urged the establishment of chairs of Jewish learning on campuses, continuation of experimental programs now being conducted with Jewish college students in New England, and a canvass of the financial resources of Reform Judaism and foundations to meet the costs of the proposed program. He said many of the proposed programs could be conducted in cooperation with the present work of B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations which, he asserted, was “being asked to do an almost impossible eclectic job with all too meager resources.”

Rabbi Feuer assailed recent predictions by Jewish sociologists and leaders of the assimilation and decline of the Jewish population of the United States. Rejecting such “prophecies of doom” and criticizing those creating “a mood of panic,” Rabbi Feuer said that “threats of destruction are not novel in the experience of the Jewish people.” He acknowledged, however, the need for a “realistic appreach” to the problem, which would involve “doing everything in our power to broaden the knowledge, to deepen the religious commitment, to make more attractive and meaningful our ritual observance and thus fortify the survival motivations of our people.”

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