Hillel Foundations Say U.S. Universities Are More Receptive to Judaic Studies

American universities are increasingly receptive to inclusion of accredited Judaic study courses in their curricula, a B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations study reported here today. Preliminary findings of a survey of more than 200 major (institutions) indicated a general acceptance among college administrations to recognize the “academic authenticity” of such study courses.

The findings, reported at the Hillel directors’ annual conference, also indicated–on the basis of spot checks–about a doubling in attendance since 1965 among students enrolling in courses of Judaism studies. The increase in the number of courses as well as in departments of Jewish studies was attributed primarily to both individual and organized efforts by Jewish students and faculty, stimulated in some measure by the success of Negro student demands for black study courses.

However, the preliminary findings showed that Jewish students have been able to make their case in negotiations with college administration. No instance of a need for “confrontation tactics” has showed up yet in the survey, which is being conducted by Dr. Alfred Jospe, Hillel director of program and resources.

The directors, in a proposal that appears to be a precedent in management-employe relations among Jewish institutions, petitioned for voting representation on the Hillel Foundations’ national commission, its highest policy body. A request by the National Association of Hillel Directors for three seats on the 67-member commission is now under study by a special committee of the commission. Earlier this year, the commission authorized the inclusion of four student representatives with full voting powers into its ranks. A student proposal for four additional seats is also under study.

Rabbi Robert P. Jacobs, Hillel director at Washington University, St. Louis, elected today as president of the Hillel directors’ association, said that his group’s proposal conformed to the practice in the academic community where Hillel directors serve and where joint administration-faculty student policy boards are prevalent. “In this instance, Hillel directors are the equivalent of the faculty,” he said.

Rabbi Jacobs contended that Hillel directors have a “unique role” in Jewish institutional life in that, in addition to their academic milieu, they are also “comparable to and a part of the American rabbinate as well as Jewish communal workers.” The proposal, he added, “would enable community leaders who serve on the commission to learn first-hand the practical problems of serving Jewish students and, equally, provide the Hillel staff with a closer relationship to the administrative realities” that confront a policy board. The association, which under the proposal would elect its three representatives to the commission, comprises Hillel rabbis who serve at 90 major universities. It excludes Hillel’s national headquarters staff.

At a closing banquet session, the directors honored Rabbi Samuel Perlman of Boston University and Rabbi Meyer Greenberg of Maryland University on their 25th anniversaries with Hillel, and Rabbi Maurice Zigmond, who retired last year after also serving with Hillel for 25 years.

NEXT STORY