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September 22, 1977 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1977-09-22

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3 Michigan Daily

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Reflctions on Yom Kippur:
Still searching for home

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MicIig

3U augl

Eighty;Eight Years of Editorial Freedom

420 Moynard St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109

ol. LXXXVIII, No. 13

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
heft attrition rate:
Wh yit-should bother us,

By SUSAN ADES
As I waded with the masses
through the Fishbowl at noon one
fall day in 1974, there emerged
from the leafletting socialists,
pacifists, unionizers and philoso-
phizers a stout, bearded fellow,
dressed in black from his hat to,
his well-worn, laced shoes.
Having hand-picked the dark-
eyed brunettes from the crowd,
he approached me with arms out-
stretched, each hand clutching a
bobbing plastic bag containing a
simple white candle tucked into
an aluminum candle holder.
I CHANGED my course. He
changed his, calling through his
nose as he followed me, "You
Jewish?"
"No,' I answered over my
shoulder, catching the gaze of his
sad eyes. Somehow he knew I was
lying.
The man, if you've never en-
countered him or his compatri-
ots, was from Chabad House - a
Chasidic group on campus. I, a
worldly freshwoman, was from
'Great Neck,New York, where
the tradition of lighting the Sab-
bath candles on Friday night was
common to upwards of 65 per
cent of the town's considerable
population.
4WY OWN FAMILY is not what
yu 'd call religious. Though my
first theatre experience was a
supporting role as a potato pan-
cake at two-and-a-half, my form-
ative years in Hebrew school
were marked by teachers
bristling at my consistant failure
to attend the required youth ser-
vices. My father simply refused

to be bothered with carpooling at
the ungodly hour of 8 oclock on a
Saturday morning.
Orthodozy aside, I was brought
up true to the Fiddler on the Roof
gospel - Tradition. It meanders
thick and syrupy through my past
in the form of Friday night chick-
en and rice, 'richly ethnic Pass-,
over seders with cursory adher-
ence to the ceremonial prayers),
fasting on Yom Kippur and light-
ing the candles at Chanukah (at
least for the first of eight nights.)
Most . important, tradition is
overwhelmingly a family affair.
So what happens when one
grows up and goes to a University
so large it could be a perfect an-
tonym for "family"? One finds,
largely, that the heartbeat of
campus life is not neatly syn-
chrpnized with the tradition of
any religion. Friday night'
chicken and rice, no more. You
eat whatever the dorms serve up
(or pay extra for Hillel's chicken
and rice). And no longer can
classes be easily missed in honor
of the High Holidays,- the most
sanctified in the Jewish tradition..
LIKE THE WALLS of Jericho,
tradition comes tumbling down
on the silent and blinking potato
pancake from New York.
Hillel furnished my first cam-
pus-style Yom Kippur, but no
family was included in the pack-
age. My father wasn't there to
hustle me out, of the house, late
for services as usual. And when
the Day of Atonement passed into
dusk, my father wasn't there to
call me in from my perch on the
synagogue stoop to hear the blow-
iig of the shofar - the ceremon-
ial horn that is my favorite of all

Jewish traditions.
Instead,, in a meeting room
crowded with folding chairs and
finely frocked University stu-
dents, I picked out a "family" of
familiar hometown faces. Of the
Great Neck folk I recognized, I
had shared with one eight sum-
mers of antics at an all-girls Jew-
ish camp in Vermont; with
another, I had reluctantly shared
my answers to a physics exai
not a year before; with a third, I
shared a string of shallow Hi-
How-are-yas.
I WENT HOME and broke my
day-long fast on luke-warm dorm
leftovers.
It was in the next week that I
was discovered by the little man
from Chabad House. No,'I didn't
want his traditional Sabbath can-
dles that would throw flickers of-
religious light on the cinder-block
walls of my Alice Lloyd double,
No, I was no longer in the market
for traditional Judaism. I had left
that back home. And so, I found,
had many of i:y Jewish peers;s
many of them had migrated to.
the Pilot Program from subur-
ban, upper-middle-class, liberal
upbringings like my own.
Such religious uncertainty
showed itself in a number of
ways. Disciplines concerned with
the "inner self" - transcendent-
al meditation, yoga, EST - drew
some of the disenchanted. Oth-
ers, ,reevaluating Judaism,
plunged back into it, taking satis-
faction in choosing one's own
course rather than being carried
on a wave of tradition. Others,
myself included, delighted in,
dwelling more on the history than
on the spirituality of Judaism.

THEN, LAST APRIL, I cooked
fresh string beans, onions, garlic,
allspice and cinnamon, then car-
ted the dish to a pot luck seder at
the home of a non-Jewish friend.
There, with a 70/30 radio of Jews
to non-Jews, we ate, sang, and
read from "The People's Seder"
Haggadah, which excerpts from
the works of Gandhi, Marcuse,
and Marx.
Last week, on the eve of the
Jewish New Year, Rosh Hash-
anna, I went to Hillel's evening
service at Mendelssohn Theater.
A senior now, I found a wealth of
familiar faces smiling at me
from the assembly, and I felt
somewhat at home. Next to me
sat a friend who had, eight mon-
ths before, taken me home to a
festive, fairy tale Christmas. He
had been raised in an agnostic
household with a penchant for
tradition. But though I had been
exposed to 'New York's Christ-
mas for years and felt comfort:
able in its midst, Mendelssohn
Theater was akin to a foreign
country in heeyes of my friend,
that night. And I basked in my
role as an emmisary.
Still, today is Yom Kippur; my-
stomach will churn and groan un-
til sundown. I'll reflect on the
year that has lapsed and about
my evolving attitude toward Ju,
daism, but more than that, I'll
wish that lingering wish - that
for just one day I could be home.,
Susan Ades is co-editor of
the Daily's Sunday Magazine.
Today is Yom Kippur, the'
Jewish Day of Atonement.

[A RECENT REPORT to the LSA
faculty, Associate Dean Charles
rr s -noted that nearly 30 per-centrof,
fi-shpersons who er-oll irrthe-c61
e ail to graduate. Morris said'that
-third of those leaving -10 per cent
il LSA students - are dismissed for
demic reasons. The remaining two-
rds leave "voluntarily."'
Apparently, the attrition rate of
nsfer students is significantly high-
Furthermore, two-thirds of Oppor-
ity Program students who drop out
ilmost all of whom are minority stu-
its - have not succeeded academi-
ly.
Morris told the LSA faculty he was
npressed" with the school's attrition-
e, that it was relatively low. Cer-
nly all academic institutions host a
nber of students who, regrettably,
to graduate. But what of those who
ye on their own?
It has never been disputed that
inseling at the University is made
ficult by the sheer number of stu-
its who need assistance. Neverthe-

less, each college, when it enrolls a stu-
dent, has an obligation to steer that
, tu ent. toward graduation as ,estit-
Some will fire,ir: purely peispnal.
reasons, that life at the University is
not what they expected. The Univer-
sity has no special obligation to please
these few.
But the attrition rates for transfer
and Opportunity Program students are
discouragingly high. Surely many of
these students would like to stay, but
have found themselves in over their
heads.
To them, the, University, and each
college, owes a special obligation. We
echo calls for improved counseling and
orientation programs. It should be un-
necessary to say that the purpose of
any university is to educate and im-
prove its students, not to preside over
their academic failure-.
Academic standards should by no
means be lowered. But the University
should do all it can to help students
meet those standards.

From Ann Arbor to

wW/ joHNNY' cak -Ir INK

7

By CHRIS GOODALL
Visit any major university
campus around the world and two
things will remain very much the
same. The first passes without
comment: A large percentage of
the undergraduates will be wear-
ing American denim. Second, and
this is a little more surprising, in
'the best academic institutions
across Europe, Asia and America
there will often be more Japanese
than any other foreign
nationality. As only the short-
sighted will have missed, the Uni-
versity of Michigan is no excep-
tion to the general rule.
Those who are well-travelled
enough to have seen universities
in other continents will have no-
ticed a similar pattern. The
thoughtful will have put forward
two hypotheses. Perhaps the
Japanese are highly academic
people or, on the other hand, per-

reasonable explanations would
be wrong. Most Japanese are no
more scholarly than thesaverage
University of Michigan fresh-
man. Furthermore, Japanese
universities are modeled on
American campuses, even down
to the size of classes and the dear-
th of decent accommodations,
and have perfectly reputable
graduate schools.
More unlikely explanations are
tried: is it some part of a gigantic
plan to subvert Western culture,
whatever that may + be? If this
were true, why do these gentle-
men, for few Japanese women
students go abroad, exhibit such
passivity and so rarely prosely-
tize for their country?
The answer to our original
question is rather mundane. For
centuries the Japanese have been
acutely conscious of their own
isolation in the world and'their
vulnerability to external pres-

l

0

ph

-1) 1

G0 e
0

about the size of a small eastern
seaboard state.
Rather contrary to their.
nature, the Japanese have been
obliged to become international-
ists in outlook. Heavily reliant on
good relations with other coun-
tries, they make :every effort to
penetrate the inscrutable
paradoxes of Western societies.
EVERY YEAR, the govern-
ment and large business firms
send thousands of successful Jap-
anese away to absorb the eccen-
trities of host nations. The event-
ual aims of this expensive exer-
cise are rather simple, though
some of them must remain mat-
ters of speculation. Most ob-
viously, Japanese firms will see
in their young executives sub-
stantial investment in their coun-
try's continued export growth. As
every firm trying to sell to Japan
knows, it is very difficult to ex-
port to a country whose economy
you don't understand, whose lan-
guage you don't speak and whose
customers you don't know.
So, like most things in Japan, it
all comes down to trade. The
rather earnest Japanese next to
you in the library has come to
learn how to forestall any future
U.S. President restricting im-
ports from Japan, and to under-
stand America for his firm.
Large trading firms like Mitsui
and Mitsubishi do nothing except

Japan
Cambridge to study the danger-
ous maze of European business,
or to Brussels to understand the
bureaucracy of the 'Europearn
Common Market. In more techni-
cal subjects; they'll learn how
America bilds nuclear reactors
and how Canada generates hy-
dro-electricity. Being the best im-
itator in the world is a charger
rightly laid at Japan's door!
FURTHERMORE, the Japa-
nese are here to make contacts.
Back home, all business is done
face-to-face with people you
know, preferably, for several
years. Remember thiĀ§ when
you're sitting in your sprawling
office in Detroit. The Japanese in
your dorm now are the people
you're going to hear from in
Japan.
And then, of course, the Japa-
nese are here to learn English.
Perhaps surprisingly for such a
pragmatic nation, the English
they learned in school is often
that of Shakespeare rather than
the college slang of the 1970s.
Conversation practice is a useful
adjunct to their education. Japa-
nese itself is such a ferociously
difficult language to learn that
the people themselves don't ex-
pect foreigners to memorize even
a few words.
So, some useful rules in dealing
with Japanese friends are worth
having Talk slnwlv. give him

9

,
,.__

/

I

'The Japanese have been obliged to be-
come internationalists in outlook . . . The
rather earnest Japanese next to you in the

L//V

i

ILII

library has come to learn how to forestall
any future U.S. President restricting imports
from Japan, and to understand America for
his firm'

'4

UN i

I

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