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Hillel Directors Divided on Permanent Student Impact of June Israel Crisis

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Directors of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations cannot pinpoint whether the overwhelming student reaction to the Israel crisis last spring has left a lasting aftermath of heightening interest in Jewish affairs on the campus. But a survey of 115 major American and Canadian universities disclosed higher enrollments in credit and non-credit Hebrew courses, unusually high attendance at lectures on topics relating to Israel and increased and strengthened participation in High Holy Day services.

Results of the survey, which were disclosed here at the opening of a four day Hillel Directors Conference, showed a divided opinion. Half of the campus rabbis attributed the upsurge to a continuing effect of the crisis reaction on the Jewish students on the campus, but an equal number who reported intensified Jewish activities at their schools were uncertain that it was an outgrowth of the crisis reaction. One-third of the Hillel foundations reported that Jewish students who had no previous involvement with Hillel, were participating in its activities this year.

Prof. Louis Gottschalk of the University of Illinois, chairman of the Hillel National Commission, was able to give a clearer picture of the effect of the crisis on Jewish members of American college faculties.

“The crisis has not made the Jewish professor more religion-minded, more Zionist-oriented or more Jewishly institutionalized than he was before,” he said in analyzing reports from 83 schools where Hillel has faculty programs. But he pointed out that the strong support it had evoked, persisted today.

The student survey which Rabbi Benjamin M. Kahn, Hillel national director, analyzed in the opening address to the conference today, also disclosed that civil rights activities, which had attracted college students, many of them Jewish, in the past two or three years, had dwindled to the point of virtual non-existence on the campus in favor of student activism against conscription and the war in Vietnam. He said the survey disclosed that there was practically no student participation in marches or sit-ins for civil rights and very few likely volunteers for Negro rights registration–an activity which had high student involvement in recent years.

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