Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

U.S. Jews Urged to Establish Liberal Arts College to Prepare Leaders

November 6, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A national college of liberal arts whose major objective would be to prepare future leaders of the American Jewish community was proposed today by Dr. Max F. Baer, director of the 42,000 member B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. He said establishment of such a school which would integrate liberal arts with a curriculum of Jewish studies, is one of most critical needs facing the American Jewish community.

Dr. Baer made his proposal at the opening session of the annual meeting of the B’nai B’rith Youth Commission, adult policy making body for the youth organization. He said the idea stemmed from the realization that “the ideal of a balanced knowledge of two cultures is not attainable for most Jewish leaders when opportunities for acquiring such knowledge are not available through normal educational patterns.”

Although he favors higher Jewish education as a leadership qualification, he stressed that those who aspire to leadership positions should have at least a Jewish high school education accompanying their secular college education. “The only justification for the separation of Jews from non-Jews is pursuit of specific Jewish purposes,” he said, adding: “If an organization is established primarily for the attainment of Jewish objectives, it follows that its leadership must be knowledgeable in the Jewish heritage and have strong personal commitments to that heritage.”

“Ideally, the Jewish organization leader should be able to match his knowledge of Jewish history with his knowledge of American or world history; his knowledge of Jewish literature with a knowledge American or English literature; a knowledge of Jewish current events with a knowledge of current national or world events; a knowledge of the Jewish community with a knowledge of the American community; and a knowledge of Jewish values, traditions and beliefs with a knowledge of American values, traditions and beliefs,” the B’nai B’rith official stated.

Under his proposal, Dr. Baer said, Jewish organizations would provide liberal scholarships to high school graduates “who have demonstrated motivation and aptitudes for leadership in Jewish life and who commit themselves toward service in these organizations following completion of their training.” The school envisioned by him would train professional workers for Jewish organizations, as well as volunteer lay leaders.

As a companion to this leadership-oriented college, Dr. Baer proposed that “since formal Jewish education, even at its best, cannot meet all of the training needs for effective leadership, there must be expansion in depth of programs of Jewish youth-serving agencies.” He pointed out that his own agency has begun to stress more heavily in recent years leadership training aspects of its programs through a series of local and national leadership conferences for its teen-age and young adult leaders.

Recommended from JTA