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February 20, 1987 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-02-20

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University of Michigan Hillel.


ichael Brooks doesn't
mince words about the project closest
to his heart:
"Right now, outside of the 92nd
Street 'Y' in New York, we're the
most exciting Jewish cultural in--
stitution in the world," says Brooks of
the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation at
the University of Michigan, which he
has directed for the last six years.
"I'd be surprised if there's an-
other Jewish institution in the coun-
try doing what we're doing in terms
of the range of Jewish cultural pro-
gramming and religious programm-
Wait a minute — are we talking
about a campus Hillel?
That's right. One of those places
with kind of a nebbishy reputation
which most Jewish students go . to
only each fall for High Holiday serv-
ices? Hardly.
There has been a revolution
underway at the U-M Hillel in the
last few years, and even Brooks' cri-
tics agree that the organization is
alone among campus Hillels in the
breadth of its vision and the strength
of its presence on campus. Whether
the trail it is blazing is one that
others could — and should — follow,


Friday, February 20, 1987

The. Hillel Foundation at the
University of Michigan is
reaching thousands of students,
and critics ponder its success


Special to The Jewish News

Hill Street Forum chairmen Jonathan Shaevitz and Jamie Gold.


is open to debate; as with any revolu-
tion, some observers — even those
sympathetic to the original ideal —
worry about its direction.
But, increasingly, Hillels and
Jewish community organizations
around the country are taking notice.
While keeping what it calls its "tra-
_ ditional mandate" (religious serv-
ices, kosher meals, 'etc.), the U-M
Hillel has embarked on scores of
high-stakes and financially suc-
cessful cultural programs, becoming,
in Brooks' words, "one of the largest
promoters of major lecturers and ar-
tists in the Midwest."
First, the bread and butter:
Hillel has strengthened its commit-
ment to traditional Hillel -concerns
this year by hiring Orthodox Rabbi
Larry Zierler as its assistant direc-
tor. Zierler's presence quiets some of
the worries expressed in the past by
observant students over the absence
of a rabbi at U-M Hillel. Participa-
tion in religious services has been
growing steadily over the last few
years as well; whereas five years ago,
there was only an Orthodox minyan
at the U-M, and only a sometimes one
at that, Hillel now boasts three reg-
ular minyanim: a daily Orthodox, a

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