Hillel Leader Denies College Campus is ‘disaster Area’ in Jewish Life

Blaming the college campus for the rejection by many students of their Jewish identity is a “bitter injustice” which ignores the underlying reasons for this attitude, a B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations official said today. He decided that the real reason was “erosion of Jewish knowledge and the absence of a meaningful Jewish experience in their lives.”

Dr. Alfred Jospe, Hillel director of program and resources, said the Jewish communities’ basic problem with much of its college generation was not the outright defection of the students from Judaism but their lack of adequate exposure to the Jewish past–its traditions, history, culture and teachings. “This has left many of them with no sense of Jewish identity, and has resulted in their believing that Judaism is irrelevant in the modern world,” he told 230 Jewish undergraduates from 120 American and Canadian universities at the opening session of Hillel’s annual summer institute at Camp B’nai B’rith here.

Declaring that “Jews can only be defined in an historic context,” Dr. Jospe said the Jewish past must be interpreted to mean “a past as contemporary experience, an affirmation of relationships which extends to all places and all times.”

To condemn the campus as a “disaster area” in Jewish life is “an unwarranted and unacceptable generalization,” Dr. Jospe said. “There are tens of thousands of Jewish students who are deeply committed to Jewish life and do not seek to escape Judaism. But there are also far too many students with no memories of a real Jewish experience from which to develop the substance of their identity.”

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