DIFFERENT VIEWS, COMMON GOALS
At one workshop, for example, Americans joined with Israelis and others in a discussion of the conflict between the European and Oriental Jewish communities in Israel. And during private conversations, Americans became aware of the relative lack of meaningful Jewish life in countries such as Holland. According to Rauch, the fact that American students with different religious and political backgrounds came together to participate in such a conference demonstrates the need for increasingly coordinating the activities of the various American student groups so that common goals, such as a heightened Jewish consciousness among American students, can be more effectively achieved. The North American Jewish Student Network, WUJS’ North American affiliate, is attempting to improve the communication between the different student groups on this continent.
Israel and aliyah were often discussed by the delegates, both at workshops and privately. While there were some here who are content in their native lands, many others who participated in the conference intend to make aliyah. But a number of the latter, including an Englishman and the Australian, want to build up the Jewish student organizations where they now live before they move to Israel. Also, some of those seriously considering making aliyah expressed concern that Israel has in many ways become a Jewish state without being Jewish, a view that several Israelis shared. At a workshop entitled “American-Israeli Encounter.” Americans and Israelis revealed their feelings about each others’ way of life and discussed the reasons Americans often find it difficult to become integrated into Israeli society.
Another subject that generated excitement as well as tension was “Jewish Women.” More than fifty men and women sat together on the men’s side of the mechitza in the outdoor chapel yesterday and talked about Jewish women’s liberation. Some of the women charged that the halacha is sexist when, for instance, it prohibits women from leading religious services and testifying as witnesses. But a bearded Orthodox student accused them of “liberating” their quotations of halachic texts from their contents.
Thus, many of the encounters at the conference produced sharp disagreements and the delegates’ differences were apparent throughout the weekend. But after last night’s vibrant demonstration in the dining hall, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, a Lubavitcher Chusid from Philadelphia, said as he held the new hagaddah of the Jewish Liberation Project, a radical-Zionist group: “There is more that unites us than divides us.” When the delegates sang out “the nation of Israel lives, our forefathers still live,” one really had to believe them.