Hillel Directors Told Jewish Students Experience New Liberality in Sexual Relations
Menu JTA Search

Hillel Directors Told Jewish Students Experience New Liberality in Sexual Relations

Download PDF for this date

Jewish students, like all students on American university campuses, are actively experiencing a new liberality in sexual relations and feeling less guilt for it. They are pairing off in pre-marital living arrangements in gradually increasing number, and are more frequently than ever before marrying persons of other faiths. This was revealed in a profile of the Jewish college student emerging in a workshop conferences here today during the national conference of the Hillel directors of 100 American and Canadian universities and colleges.

Directors reported during sessions today that pre-marital pregnancies were increasing. A workshop was also told that while the use of the hallucinatory drug LSD was down, the use of marijuana was a daily fact for many students.

Rabbi Robert P. Jacobs, Hillel director at Washington University in St. Louis, who opened the workshop discussion on counselling problems, stressed that Jewish student problems were the same as those of other students on the campus.

“The counselling experiences that Hillel directors have point up the truth of this,” Rabbi Jacobs declared. “If other counsellors (of other faiths) have students anxious about the use of drugs, of sex involvement from first sex experience to abortion, we do too.”

Analyzing the Jewish student today, Rabbi Jacobs declared that he was under pressure to be, “for the first time, an authentic self.” The student, he said, enters “a wide open permissive society which accepts testing of self, which tolerates wide-ranging eccentricity of verbalization, of peer-group vocabulary, of multiforms of dress and gives whole-hearted support to contrast with the adult world.” In this setting, he said, “words pour out, physical experimentation is demanded and the results are great pleasure, great exhaustion, great new learnings and great depression.”

Rabbi Jacobs noted that without memories of the past, without the experience of the Hitler era, without strong Jewish heritage, the Jewish students have “few emotions as Jews and are riper for new emotions. They have their own peer groups, and it is the culture of youth rather than the culture of their people” which dominates their lives. The students, he said, “identify with Woodstock’s masses and the “Great Mobe(Mobilization)of November’ rather than with the Jewish people here or elsewhere.”

Rabbi Joseph Schachter, Hillel director at the University of Illinois, reported a falling off in the number of counselling cases on pre-marital sex because, he said, “students now get their information from their own leadership. The guilt that used to exist no longer exists.” However, he pointed out, “when they get into trouble, they can’t be bailed out by their life style and that’s when they come to us or to the social agencies for help.”


Rabbi Daniel Leifer, associate director of Hillel at the University of Chicago, reported an increase in the intermarriage rate, with students seeking advice and counsel in only a small percentage of the cases. “It’s the small percentage who will come and to whom conversion becomes an option,” he said. “I explore the possibilities with them. As someone who is committed to the survival of the Jewish people, I am disappointed when there is a loss-if that is what intermarriage means.”

But, he added, “I am committed to helping them if there is an honest wish to convert. I am concerned that if there is conversion involved, it is out of honest conviction and not because of guilt, for the sake of parents, for the possible effect of mixed marriage on children. I am prepared to talk to students about mixed marriage and about conversion, and if there is an honest choice, I will help the conversion.”

In a parallel workshop session, Dr. Alfred Jose, director of program and resources of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation, challenged the validity of some experimental worship services practiced by Jewish students on a number of American college campuses. He charged that the radical restructuring of the worship experience, as practiced by many student groups, rejected the standard faith of Judaism and represented a “potential sectarianism.” which seems to be concerned only with itself and the quest for its own satisfactions.” He warned that there was “a very real danger of discontinuity which may ultimately involve complete sectarianism.”

Advocates of the new forms of experimental worship. Dr. Jose said, argue that they do not reject the standard faith of Judaism but merely the forms in which it is expressed. They claim, he asserted, that the students seek new expressions for their sense of love and place new emphasis on the sense of community.

He noted the “strong emphasis on the role of the mystical,” the tendency to turn to Eastern religious traditions and forms of expression and a new emphasis on the role of symbolism. Some observers, Dr. Jose reported, described the Woodstock Festival as an example of “a new religious culture.” He pointed to “the use of incense, bright costumes, loud music, convulsive dancing, hugging and other forms of physical stimulus, as well as the use of candles, hymns and similar liturgical elements.”

He questioned whether what these media seek to express could be defined as religious ideas and said that while they might involve faith, “not all kinds of faith are ‘religious’ in the established sense of the word.” He added that “the problem is that speaking of God may not yet be speaking to Him-and listening to one’s own voice and emotions may be precisely that.”

Dr. Jose specifically excluded from his comments creative services which followed basically the standardized traditional Minhagim (service patterns) and original services prepared for special occasions and holidays, or liturgical changes, but expressed caution about religious services or forms of supposed worship “in which participants speak only of themselves and describe their private emotions.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund