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Jewish Student Militancy Replaced by Passivity, Hillel Directors Report

December 22, 1971
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The overt militancy of the Jewish student, demonstrated in recent years by his highly visible involvement in organized anti-establishment protests and political-minded demonstrations, has disappeared from the campus and been replaced by a passivity towards social and political issues, directors of the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations reported today at their annual conference here.

In their discussions of current campus trends, the 103 Hillel directors who staff 90 major colleges and universities, presented a consensus view of a Jewish campus generation still disenchanted with the “plastic character” of the organized Jewish community, including the synagogue, but no longer stirred into volatile protests over such issues as Vietnam, the draft, racial equality or even ecology.

“These fires have been stoked” on the campus, said Rabbi Norman Frimer, conference chairman and Hillel coordinator for metropolitan New York, in an opening address. “If they still give off some heat, they don’t generate any incandescent flame.”


Many of his colleagues agreed with Rabbi Frimer’s view that beneath the surface trend of campus tranquility is “a serious turning inward among Jewish students expressed in a mystical quest for personal salvation.” This has manifested itself in a variety of student-stimulated forms of religious and ethnic identity often unrelated, if not resistant, to the norms of the adult community, the Hillel directors said.

They cited the continuous spread of student-conceived “free Jewish universities” now conducted through Hillel units on 30 campuses; an awakened interest in Yiddish that, begun by Hillel four years ago as a pilot project, is now taught in 19 colleges; and the growing number of Havurot, or Jewish fellowship groups, on campus as a Jewish-oriented life-style of small groups of students. Hillel directors cautioned against “pinning labels on the campus generation because” as Rabbi Frimer noted, “Jewish student patterns of loyalties and attachments barely stand still long enough to be studied and understood.”

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