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Increasing Number of Jewish Students Becoming Alienated from Judaism

A New York professor of sociology presented the findings of studies and surveys here yesterday which confirmed the view of many Jews that college campuses are “the crisis area of Jewish survival.” Dr. Bernard Lander, of Hunter College, said colleges have become the scene of growing alienation and defection of Jewish students from Judaism and observed that 80 percent of American Jewish youth currently attend college. Dr. Lander presented his evaluation at the concluding session of the 47th anniversary convention of the women’s branch of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America. He said a study by Prof. Ernest Van den Haag of political and religious attitudes of students at 12 colleges demonstrated that liberal arts colleges, with the exception of Catholic-oriented schools, “exercised a generally destructive effect on their students’ religious convictions.” He said the data showed the defection rate to be “dramatically higher” among Jewish students at those schools than among Protestant students. At Yale, the defection rate for Protestants was 20 percent and for Jews, 31 percent; at Williams College, 28 percent of Protestant and 50 percent of Jewish students had defected from their religion.

Dr. Lander said that other studies indicated that 26 percent of Jewish college students raised as Jews “no longer consider themselves Jews.” Those studies found the defection rate among undergraduates to be highest among students majoring in the humanities. The study also found that 40 percent of the defectors felt “it was likely that they would marry non-Jews” while only six students who identified as Jews gave that response. Dr. Lander said studies showed that rejection of Jewish religious identity was coupled by a rejection of cultural identity as well. He said the indifference toward Israel shown by many Jewish students in the late 1950s and early ’60s “is now being transformed into outright hostility.” Dr. Lander added that Jewish students “have been especially affected by the virus of the New Left and anti-establishmentarianism.” He declared that it was the adult Jewish community, not the college student which must bear the responsibility “for the ravage of self-rejection. New Left nihilism and drugs” among Jewish college students. He noted that such agencies as the Hillel Foundations and Yavneh Orthodox student groups on campuses have aided in serving as “countervailing influences” although such agencies on most campuses do not reach more than two or three percent of the Jewish student body.

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