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Views Expressed That Most Jewish Youth in Diaspora Lack Commitment to Jewishness

A gloomy picture of the lack of commitment by most Jewish youth in the diaspora to their Jewishness was presented here at the world executive meeting of the World Jewish Congress. The assessment by educators and religious leaders was borne out by representatives of Jewish youth groups abroad who described the situation in their respective countries. According to Rabbi Irving Greenberg, of New York, Jewish youth in the diaspora is torn between the urge to remain Jewish at the risk of “being different” from the rest of society and a desire to assimilate with his surroundings. Mordechai Bar-On, head of the Jewish Agency’s youth department, said the fault lay with Jewish education which put the greatest emphasis on the primary grades while neglecting “the dangerous ages of 16 and above, open to the influences of the environments.” He proposed that more stress be placed on Jewish education on the high school and college levels. He said that work among Jewish youth should be given “first priority” in the 1970’s and that Jewish youth movements and organizations should be encouraged and given material aid with no strings attached.

Speaking of the Jewish involvement of youth in Latin America, Danni Neuman, of Uruguay said, “if I was to describe it by colors, I would say it is dark gray or even black.” According to Mr. Neuman, Jewish youngsters in Latin America seek material success and are encouraged by their parents who wish to see them well off and lay aside Jewishness. Mark Rosenstein, of the North American Jewish Youth Council, spoke of large numbers of Jewish college and university youth who join anti-Israel and anti-Jewish groups on the campus. He said he saw “light” however in the Zionist youth movements “whose goal is aliya.”

Gil Frank, of Paris, said the old generation lives in the shadow of the Nazi holocaust while the new generation is seeking an ideology and a challenge. He said the attempts to give the youth Anglo-Jewish or Franco-Jewish education was a failure because they emerged neither British, nor French nor Jewish. He claimed that the solution was a total Jewish education. Youth representatives from Australia and Israel said that teachers, instructors and leaders must be young because only the young can communicate effectively with youth. Summing up the debate. Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress suggested that a special center be established through the Memorial Fund for Jewish Culture at which intellectuals, youth leaders and teachers could hold dialogues on the problem.

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