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May 10, 1996 - Image 69

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-05-10

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Can a
trained group
of Fellows
change the
future of
the Jewish



One graduate considered keeping Jews involved in Jewish life as key. Another pondered how to affect religious life without
talking about religion.

t is widely recognized that the
Jewish world is in crisis, with an
intermarriage rate of more than
50 percent in the United States,
and a decrease in U.S. immigra-
tion from 4 percent when the state
was established to 2.3 percent to-
day. Similar trends are reported
from Europe and Latin America.
Indeed, as was recognized at
the most recent assembly of the World
Jewish Congress, it is not Jews that are
in danger any longer, but Judaism it-
One organization that hopes to find
a solution to the problems of assimila-
tion is the Jerusalem Fellows. Members
discussed assimilation and other issues
at the seventh Jerusalem Fellows Col-
loquium, held recently in Jerusalem.
The topic of the gathering was "Issues
of Authority in Contemporary Jewish
The key to the solution is leadership,
believes Seymour Fox, professor of Ed-
ucation and Jewish Education at the
Hebrew University, founder of the
Jerusalem Fellows program in 1981 and
current chairman of the academic board,
and former dean of the Jewish Theo-
logical Seminary.
He recalls how, in 1981, then-Jewish
Agency head Arieh Dulchin asked a
group of educators where the most sig-
nificant investment for Jewish educa-

tion should be made. The answer. It was
crucial to build a league of top Jewish
educators throughout the world.
Professor Fox hit on the idea of a pro-
gram for educators when the Jewish
community in France wanted to create
a teacher training college and found
there was no one to lead it.
The Jerusalem Fellows sought to rec-
tify this situation by recruiting the most
talented educators with leadership qual-
ities, communal involvement and ad-
vanced degrees, and enroll them in a
two-year program in Jerusalem. Con-
ducted for the most part in Hebrew, the
courses would comprise group study, in-
dividual study and a personal project
related to each Fellow's area of exper-
The only condition of the studies is
that after the program each Fellow is
committed to go, or return to, a Jew-
ish community in the Diaspora for a
minimum of five years.
Professor Fox believes the problem
of disaffection, disinterest and assimi-
lation within Jewish communities is
greater than ever. "It will take out-
standing leaders armed with great ideas
to make a difference," he says. But he
is encouraged by the fact that the Jew-
ish communities now realize the extent
of the problem and consider Jewish ed-
ucation a priority.
Felix Posen, governor of the Centre

for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Ox-
ford University and vice-chairman of
the Mandel Institute, which took over
sponsorship of the Jerusalem Fellows
program when the Jewish Agency was
unable to continue financing it, says the
original rationale for launching the pro-
gram was and still is the enormous
dearth of training facilities.
'What we are doing here is unique,"
he says, and he believes the graduates
prove the program's success. "One-third
are high-school principals and the re-
mainder have top jobs in the various
Jewish communities worldwide. Al-
though they are all highly trained be-
fore they come into the program, we
train them one notch higher in order
that they can make a major interven-
tion in their community and set the pol-
icy for the next generation."
He admits the program makes for
elitism, but feels there is no other al-
"We give them a very intensive train-
ing, practically on a tutorial basis. It is
extremely expensive, so we are very
careful to select only the best with the
hope they'll make a major contribution
to whichever community they go to."
The Fellows have different priorities
both during and after their studies.
Frenchman Jean Jacques Wahl was
one of the first Jerusalem Fellows. Fol-
lowing 12 years' community work in

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