Menu JTA Search

Claim Made That U.S. Jewish Youth Are Reacting to ‘negative’ Aspects of Jewish Events

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

Dr. Israel Kugler, president of the Workmen’s Circle, the Jewish labor fraternal order, warned here that American Jewish youth are reacting to the “negative” aspects of Jewish events.

“They are conscious of themselves as Jews largely as a negative reaction to the Holocaust, the dangers facing Israel, the disturbances on the West Bank and manifestations of anti-Semitism.” he told 1000 delegates attending the Workmen’s Circle’s four-day national convention which ended yesterday.

Kugler, who was reelected president to a second two- year term, said much of the blame lies with the disintegration of the older Jewish communities, suburbanization and dispersion to other regions. He also cited as a contributory cause, the designation of Yiddish “as a language of defeat” and the touting of Hebrew “as the language of culture” when the State of Israel was founded.

American Jewish youth “have not developed the positive conception of Jewishness, of a culture with literature, language, drama, music, art, dance and history.” he said. He contrasted that to the situation of Soviet Jews who yearn for Jewish cultural outreach “while the USSR is consciously destroying the culture and identity of Jewish life.”

SEES BEGINNING OF RENAISSANCE

Nevertheless, Kugler saw a renaissance beginning among young American Jews. He cited his organization’s preparation of Yiddish cultural programs for campus Hillel groups as a means for further expansion in the American Jewish community.

He also called for continued cultural contact between American and Soviet Jews, especially the dissemination of Yiddish language materials in the Soviet Union. He recalled that at the Moscow Book Fair last year, the Jewish delegation of which he was a member helped circulate Yiddish books and records.

Kugler said that in this country, Soviet Jewish emigres were looking for closer ties to their Jewish secularist proclivities. He said the Workmen’s Circle kept its “doors open” to them “just as in the days of the great immigration to the U.S.”

Joseph Mlotek, educational director of the Workmen’s Circle, announced that a summit conference is being planned for 1983 to “discuss where the Jewish lifestyle is going in America.”

NEXT STORY