B’nai B’rith Leader Urges Jewish Communal Groups to Democratize

A leading authority on volunteer communal work urged Jewish service organizations to “move toward democratization” as a means of attracting “outstanding, idealistic” young people into public service activities.

In his keynote address to the annual meeting of the B’nai B’rith Commission on Career and Counseling Services here Saturday night, Dr. Daniel Thursz, executive vice-president of B’nai B’rith, declared that Jewish volunteer communal groups must end the fruitless competition among themselves.

Thursz, former dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, declared that this competition, the “structured-in” divisiveness and the endless “plays for vanity” by leaders of organizations discourage young people from joining the Jewish establishment. “I am concerned with the kind of image Jewish communal groups have with young people who care about their Jewish needs,” Thursz said.

The young people of today are immune from the cynicism and skepticism that engulfs the adult world, he added. “Despite all that has happened in recent years, I find that they are still searching for self-identification and a purpose in life,” he said. Thursz, who was given the Commission’s annual award for “years of achievement and dedicated service to young people” as a member of the B’nai B’rith youth organization summer staff and as a professor and dean at the University of Maryland, called on B’nai B’rith to serve as “the interpreter of the youth counter-culture to the establishment.”

NEED TO TEACH JEWISH YOUTH TO COPE

B’nai B’rith can “make the difference” to youth in their relations with synagogues, the Federations and other Jewish organizations, Thursz said, explaining that because of the affluence of the current generation of adults, Jewish youngsters are “not prepared to survive in today’s world.” He added: “We didn’t teach them how to cope.”

The Commission gave its Wilfred S. Stachenfeld Award to Boston business and trade publisher Alan Larkin for “outstanding achievement that significantly enhances the reputation of the career and counseling service.” Larkin, a vice-president of B’nai B’rith’s New York and New England Region, has been active in programs for youth for 25 years. The Commission’s national director, Dr. Norman Feingold, was awarded a special plaque by the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped for preparing and publishing several learning and vocational guides.

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