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B’nai B’rith Studies See Jewish Orientation As Priority Issue in the 1970’s

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A two-year-old study by 30 B’nai B’rith task forces, working independently of one another, took a look at the future of Jewish life in America and agreed that the major and priority concern of American Jews in the 1970’s will be the Jewish orientation — or lack of it — of their children.

The results of the study, which involved 700 persons, were reported here today by Dr. William A. Wexler, of Savannah, president of B’nai B’rith, at the opening of the annual meeting of its board of governors. The study indicated that the strengthening of the cultural loyalties and Jewish identifications of youngsters, and means to cope with “impoverishments in Jewish education” are already the dominant concerns of the Jewish community. The problems of anti-Semitism and related issues arising from the civil rights movement and racial conflicts, church-state disputes and political extremism, rank second in frequency among the major issues likely to claim the attention of American Jews during the next decade, the task force studies showed. American Jewry’s relationship with Israel ranked third, but, it was pointed out, this subject was investigated prior to last June’s Six-Day War.

Dr. Wexler said the study showed that “more affirmative activities in organized Jewish life” are required to keep Jewish youth from “drifting away from Jewish moorings toward a more humanistic society.” He urged Jewish federations and welfare funds to give greater emphasis in their allocations to Jewish educational institutions and programs, since medical and social welfare services “are increasingly subsidized by public grants.”

The task forces listed the following areas of concern which, they forecast, will increase in intensity in the next decade: The loss among Jewish youth of involvement with authentic Jewish expression, opening paths toward assimilation; the domineering influence of Christian culture over Jewish experience of family life; the estrangement of Jewish intellectuals from Jewish communal life; the present lack of “contemporary relevancy” in Jewish education; and a “floating by Jewish college youth” into a new kind of Jewish identification without religious emphasis.

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