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February 20, 1987 - Image 25

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

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Students lined up at the Power Center box o e, waiting to purchase tickets for the Hillel sponsored appearance of author Joseph Heller.

-

Conservative and a brand new Re-
form.
Other specifically Jewish pro-
grams at Hillel include the Jewish
Learning Center, which offers about
15 courses per term, ranging from
basic Hebrew classes to courses in
cantillation, Talmud and "Goddesses •
and Goddess Worship in Ancient Is-
rael"; a Jewish Elderly Outreach
Project; an annual week-long Con-
ference on the Holocaust; a Jewish
feminist group and Women in
_ Judaism lecture series; a Jewish
meditation group, and more. The
Union of Students for Israel, Pro-
gressive Zionist Caucus and groups
concerned with Soviet and Ethiopian
Jewry are among the 23 student
organizations for which Hillel is an
umbrella
It is a highly respectable show-
ing for a Hillel at a large university,
but that's just the half of it. Hillel
also sponsors (or co-sponsors, with
other university organizations):
• Hill Street Cinema, a film
group that shows three films a week
at the Hillel building at 1429 Hill
Street, ranging from Jewish interest
films to Knute Rockn,e: All American .
• Hill Street Players, a student

theater group that stages shows of
general, not particularly Jewish,
interest.
• Consider, a weekly publication
addressing two sides of a given issue,
also of general interest.
• The newest baby, Hill Street
Forum, a student group founded this
year to organize lecture series. Last
year, the eclectic Hillel sponsored
lectures by Elie Wiesel, Amos Oz,
Yehuda Amichai and Allen
Ginsberg, and performances by
Yakov Smirnoff, David Broza and
Traveling Jewish Theater, among
others. It brought the film Shoah to
Ann Arbor for a week. This year, Hill
Street Forum has pulled in Kurt
Vonnegut and Joseph Heller as part
of a "Great Writers Series." Its "Cel-
ebration of Jewish Arts" series fea-
tures Oz and singer Chava Albers-
thin.
To house all these activities —
which bring about 1,500 students to
Hillel each week — as well as other
services like counseling, study space
and a darkroom, Hillel is embarking
on a $3 million building project (it
has already raised $1 million) to
completely remodel and expand its
current Hill Street headquarters.

How does this Hillel do it, while
most Hillels struggle to organize a
bagel brunch? And, most impor-
tantly, should any Hillel be devoting
time and energy to evenings with
Kurt Vonnegut, Allen Ginsberg or
Knute Rockne: All American?
U-M Hillel's success in estab-
lishing itself as a major cultural
player at the University of Michigan
may have something to do with the
university, which has a Jewish popu-
lation of about 5,000 to 6,000, and a
wealth of academic and other re-
sources.
But the real secret lies in the
vision promoted by Brooks and Hill-
- el's associate director, Joseph
Kohane, who believe that in order to
speak to the needs and Jewishness of
most Jewish students Hillel must
compete on many levels in the "mar-
.ketplace of ideas" that is a college
campus.
"I have a passion for culture. I
live in both cultures: the Jewish one
and the secular one, the culture at
large," says Kohane. As a cultural
center, Hillel must realize that
Jewish students are Jewish and also
people of this culture and society.
They are deeply embedded in it and

feel comfortable in it, and their inter-
, ests cover many areas, from rock con-
certs to High Holiday services."
"Friday night services deserve
first-class programming, but most of
these people will come to Hillel any-
way. It's not as great a .challenge,"
says Brooks, who likens Hillel to "the
last Jewish gas station before the
freeway of life" for most Jewish stu-
dents.
He's not about to pump cheap
gas. Only quality, says Brooks, gives
Jewish students the message that the
Jewish community is vibrant and ex-
citing. -
Kohane concurs: For Jewish
culture to be rich, it's got to be as good
as any other kind of product in our
culture. It's not worth a hill of beans
if we rely just on sentimentality and
guilt to draw talented Jewish stu-
dents."
But quality costs. Brooks and
Kohane defend their practice of
charging admission to most Hillel
events by arguing that students
know that simple fact: No hidden
agendas, no moral high ground; you
pays your money, you sees the show.
The larger gigs, like Vonnegut

,

Continued on next page

25

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