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Jewish Free University to Open This Fall; Aim is to Explore All Facets of Jewish Life

A Jewish Free University, offering study groups in subjects of Jewish interests, will open here this fall, according to an announcement by Stephen R. Goldstein, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and Consultant on Jewish Communal Affairs to the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. The study groups, which will be open to college students and the general public in the area, will be taught by professors from Temple. Drexel, Lincoln, Villanova and Pennsylvania Universities, as well as by faculty members of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wellsprings Ecumenical Institute and some graduate students. Mr. Goldstein described the project as “an opportunity for college students, other interested Philadelphians and some of the best minds in the Jewish academic community to explore together the many facets of the Jewish experience that combine to form the Jewish people and determine their role in society today.”

Fourteen courses have been planned to date, Mr. Goldstein reported, and another four or five courses are expected to be agreed on by the middle of the summer. Among the courses already planned are: The Covenant of Peace – A Biblical and Dialogical approach to Black-Jewish Relations and Middle East Conflict; The Dissolution of the Ghetto; Socialist Influence on Zionism; The Political Structure of the American Jewish Community; Agenda Jewish Action in the 70’s; Jewish Values and Jewish Identity; Interreligious Dialogue; and Comparative Study of Black and Jewish Ethnicity. Discussing the rationale behind the idea of a Jewish Free University in Philadelphia, Mr. Goldstein explained: “This idea hinges on a belief that there are a substantial number of Jewishly committed faculty members on local campuses. For the most part, however, he said, they have disassociated their Jewish commitment from their secular academic pursuits.

“As such, they have been a negligible influence on the Jewish life and commitment of their students and have not served their potentially significant role of affirmative Jewish models for their students and colleagues,” Mr. Goldstein stated. He added that with the tremendous resurgence of Jewish interest this group of distinguished academicians can foster a Jewish renaissance in this country. “The formation of a Jewish Free University also hinges on the belief that there is a reservoir of interest in a wide range of Jewish studies among many students, including those ordinarily labeled as uncommitted, that could be tapped by high level study groups conducted by faculty members whom they respect for their work in secular fields,” he observed. The projected study groups, Mr. Goldstein noted, “could enrich the Jewish life of both participating faculty and students,” and at the same time, “the participating faculty would become visible as affirmative Jewish models for an even larger group of students and colleagues.”

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