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September 29, 1989 - Image 156

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-29

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156

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1989

Now To Inspire
Thrned-Off Students

onesdale, Pa. — David
Matez, chairperson of
Hillel at Drexel
University, is used to urging,
prodding, cajoling, "practical-
ly dragging people up out of
their chairs" to get them in-
terested in Hillel activities.
He had no such problem last
week.
Matez, a printing tech-
nology major, was one of 95
hand-picked student leaders
of Hillel from 60 campuses
across the country who
gathered for four days at
Honesdale, Pa., in the Poconos
to talk about what works on
their campuses, to learn more
about Judaism, to develop
their leadership skills and to
get to know one other.
Hillel is the B'nai B'rith
organization that provides a
range of religious, cultural
and educational programm-
ing to Jewish college students
on • hundreds of campuses
throughout the United
States.
"You could consider our ef-
forts here a gift to the na-
tional Jewish community for
the future. These are the best
and the brightest, our next
generation of leaders," noted
Richard Joel, international
director of Hillel, who con-
ceived of the first National
Leaders Assembly as a way to
further develop the leader-
ship skills of those already ac-
tive in their campus Hillels.
Each Hillel activist had
been nominated by his or her
Hillel director to be a partici-
pant at the assembly, which
met here at Camp Moshava,
a B'nei Akiva lakeside camp.
While some participants were
partially subsidized, all who
attended paid at least part of
their own tuition and
transportation costs to come
to the training session. They
came, as Laurie Fine, a social
studies major at Harvard, put
it, "to figure out how to in-
spire others the way we are
inspired by our Jewish
heritage?'
This was a group of
students interested in
religious practices as well as
social issues. Morning prayers
were voluntary, but well at-
tended. There were four Shab-
bat services, and students
divided themselves rather
equally between them: Or-
thodox, Conservative, Reform
and one for those who con-
sidered themselves neophytes
and chose to attend the begin-
ners' service.

After a Shabbat dinner
which had been interspersed
with enthusiastic singing, the
young people enthusiastical-
ly danced Israeli dances for
hours.
Learning sessions, held out-
doors, were substantive.
'Ibrah- text discussions, for ex-
ample, were held each morn-
ing. Other sessions were nuts
and bolts skills classes, like
the one on how to plan a
weekend retreat: (Have a
theme, appoint at least five
people to your steering com-
mittee or you will burn out,
and consider the needs of Or-
thodox as well as less tradi-
tional participants, suggested
Rabbi Stephen Cohen, Hillel
director at the University of
California at Santa Barbara
and one of the Hillel profes-
sionals who came to Camp
Moshava as assembly faculty.)
The biggest problem Hillel
activists have to deal with,
agreed several Jewish cam-
pus activists, is apathy.
"Students seem to park
their Jewish identity at
home," is the way Suzanne
Rosin, a student at Beaver
College, put it.
Earlier in the day, Rosin
had met with other students,
like herself, who attend what
are largely commuter
colleges.
"Even when they live in the
dorms, our students go home
for the weekend, and
anything they get Jewishly, I
guess they get there."

Most Jewish students bring
very little to college in the
way of Jewish identity. Four
out of five Jewish teens don't
affiliate with Jewish
organizations in high schools,
notes Rabbi Joel. Most Jewish
college freshman don't fill out
religious preference cards, he
says.
"These factors aren't our
fault, but they are our
burden," says the rabbi.
Overcoming this lack of
Jewish identity and making
Judaism attractive is ac-
complished in a variety of
ways at different campuses.
Not all Hillel professionals
are in agreement on what is
a proper Hillel activity.
At the University of
Michigan, where some 200
students use the new Hillel
center on a daily basis, there
are film series and discussion
groups on a variety of social
issues, only some of them
strictly Jewish issues There
are 36 different groups at the
Ann Arbor Hillel, only three
of them formed for religious
reasons. 0

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