WASHINGTON (Mar. 11)
The national commission of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation may try to work out ways to implement a proposal to support young men who refuse to be drafted for military service in Vietnam. That proposal was one of several that emerged in resolutions adopted at a three day conference which brought together 60 Jewish student leaders representing 34 college campuses around the country and the representatives of 27 major American Jewish organizations. The conference, which closed yesterday, was described as the first significant confrontation between American Jewish youth and the leaders of the so-called Jewish “Establishment.” It ended with agreement by the Hillel Foundation, which sponsored the gathering, to student demands for an active campus voice in its policy-making ranks.
The Vietnam proposals were the most startling, observers said. The resolution adopted by the students and their elders said, “We support the young men who have chosen jail or exile by refusing the draft and those GIs who refuse service in Vietnam. We regard the jailing of those young men and many of their supporters as political incarceration and urge that they be granted amnesty.” The resolution called on the national Hillel office to “provide program material to local chapters regarding draft resistance, specifically on the historical, cultural and Halachic Jewish background for conscientious objection and resistance to war”–if a majority of Hillel chapters adopt the same or similar resolutions.
Other resolutions assailed Negro anti-Semitism as a “ploy” by interested parties to deflect the Negroes’ struggle for equal rights; demanded an increase over the current 80 departments of Jewish studies in colleges across the country; demanded improvements in the content of elementary Jewish education; urged Jewish institutions to support Israel and the idea of Jewish voluntary service to that country; and called on Jewish organizations to provide “information” for Jewish students to counteract Arab propaganda on American campuses. The resolution pertaining to the establishment of additional departments of Jewish studies noted pointedly that “sit-ins,” demonstrations and all ways of bringing public pressure to bear on university administrators might be needed.
The conference heard frank and sometimes angry criticism by the student leaders of what they considered to be rigid and self-serving aspects of organized Jewish life in this country. The youngsters who represented members of tradition-oriented Jewish campus groups as well as activists of the New Left charged specifically that the Jewish “Establishment” neglected ethical issues such as the Vietnam war, poverty and the Negro struggle, and were preoccupied with budgets and institutionalized rituals.
Dean Marver H. Bernstein of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princton University, who was elected Chairman of the Hillel Commission, said the students would have “a partnership role” in the planning of future conferences. Discussing the conference at a Hillel Commission meeting, he urged that the college generation be given its “rightful say” in determining priorities in the allocation of community funds. “Students have demonstrated that they evaluate Jewish institutions in terms of their contribution to the improvement of Jewish education, to the development and financing of programs to improve the quality of Jewish life and to the support of the democratic growth of Israel,” Dean Bernstein said. “Using these criteria, they have the courage that many of their elders lack in highlighting the inadequacies and self-serving interests of organized Jewish life.”