Identity, Politics

Hillel Overwhelmingly Alienating for Campus Youth

The Jewish Adovate reports,

Most Jewish students in the nation’s colleges often feel “repelled” and “untouched” by formal Jewish organizations and activities on campus, according to a new study released on Jewish life.
[…] Researchers Amy Sales and Leonard Saxe of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University coauthored the report.
“What we tried to do was understand the students on campus, and what we found was a very complex picture,” said Sales, associate director of the Cohen Center. “It doesn’t mean they don’t have Jewish lives – they just don’t attach it to the formal community or to the formal structures on campus.”
[…] Students surveyed said that Hillel is “filled with cliques, stereotypes and fears of not fitting in for being seen as a lesser Jew.”

Full story.

15 thoughts on “Hillel Overwhelmingly Alienating for Campus Youth

  1. If you guys only knew…
    First of all, I find the fact that you’re linking the Jewish Advocate to be hilarious. (That’s just me. We get it at home, and it’s extremely amateur.)
    But second, if people only knew what was going on at Michigan Hillel, they would be sickened. Michael Brooks is a pig and is using the students to advance his own agenda, which no one is really quite sure about since it probably makes no sense. Jewish activism in Hillel is stifled by a group of autocratic higher ups who do not want to see change. This is reason enough to discourage someone from being involved, in such a case of course.
    It is saddening and just disgusting. Michigan is known for its great Hillel, and to see it go to shit because of someone from an old generation who is overstaying his position breaks my heart. And what’s worse is that he is training a demonic protege by the name of Jason Miller to continue his efforts to destroy Jewish life at Michigan once he leaves. UM Hillel has been hijacked by dirty politicians. This may be not what your article is about, Mobius, but it’s time for the students to take control on this particular college campus. And this is coming from someone who thinks that most student “activists” here are a bunch of hypocritical, pampered dipshits.
    Out with the old…

  2. did i call you a name, or did a say you talk out your ass? calling you a name would be: “you’re a twit.”
    which you are. especially if you think that matis/moshiach thing — which was written by the folks at blogindm — was anything other than a joke. which it was.

  3. Michigan Hillel once co-sponsored a Ludacris concert on campus, and then plastered him on a brochure. While I don’t want to get into Matt’s rant, it seems pretty emblematic:
    As in, you know, feel free to promote music that completely degrades women, as long as you’re trying to “meet the students where they’re at.”
    Hillel’s new big thing is about “meaningful Jewish experiences”. Ludacris totally falls in there.
    Let’s not forget their new president, who has been heading the Israel on Campus Coalition, a partnership of some 20-plus groups dedicated to dealing with Israel on campuses (or in some cases, dedicated to silencing critics of Israel).
    I have no doubt that a nuanced discussion about Israel will now be at the forefront of the Hillel agenda with this new leadership.
    Yeah, I’m being sarcastic. By the way, why do 20 or so groups like this even exist? Well, that’s a whole other conversation now, isn’t it?

  4. Balaam’s Donkey, you’re not even getting it. People love to talk about “dialogue” and “discussion,” but what the hell does that leave you with? Israel isn’t even on UM Hillel’s agenda. The students might care (appropriately), but the director doesn’t. Your paranoia about pro-Israel groups seeking to silence anti-Israel ones is amusing as well as irrelevant.
    Pro-Israel groups were actually quite important a few years ago when there were detractors who were out to slander Israel and present an incorrect view of the conflict. IMPAC and AMI were around to educate and get their view across, but the necessity of that agenda today is questionable.
    I know I’m a little harsh here, but Jewish life at U of M was something that I used to be excited about. But positive change and growth no longer seems possible there because King Michael Brooks is running everything. So instead of posting another articles to shame Jews and show how progressive you are, you should be outraged by the mistreatment of your fellow yidden by the dirty Jewish politicians who are playing Jewish students for their own good.

  5. I don’t know about you, Matt, but I go to UM Hillel often for free classes, meals, and Shabbos. Thats a hell of a lot more than whre I came from, with that old temple the next town over that nobody ever goes to anymore… and I don’t know much about Michael Brooks, but Rabbi Jason Miller seems like a pretty legitmate guy. I appreciate the UM Hillel for the services they provide, and I don’t even go to school there! I am sure there are much politics that goes on, but it still serves its basic function, and can be at least be praised for that.

  6. I never claimed to be getting it. I was speaking to the larger issues of the organization, just as the article was. Your gripe is with your school; I worked for the organization, as many of my close friends still do.
    I have no paranoia about Israel groups. I didn’t start a 1-800 number where students can anonymously report professors who criticize Israel. That sounds like paranoia to me, though.
    Additionally, your complaints extend far beyond poor old Michigan Hillel. Many Hillels and Jewish orgs. operate in just the same fashion.
    What blows my mind is the way you name names and say such things as to call a rabbi demonic. That’s dangerous talk, legitimate or not, from someone who seems to want a positive Jewish community.

  7. I can’t speak to UM, but I do know that both of my kids went to Brandeis, and that both of them tended to avoid the Hillel because it does appear to be a place where people who are “just Jewish” tend to feel welcome primarily in terms of their potential conversion to the Orthodox and/or the actively Zionist activities. That’s not appealing for people who have some Jewish interest, but aren’t actively interested (or in the case of Zionism, interested in becoming pro-Israel activists) in either of those groups.
    If this can be true at Brandeis, where the Hillel director is pretty extraordinary (imnsho), I am not surprised that it happens elsewhere.

  8. Matt-
    I certainly hope that in responding to your vilification, I will not be lending any credibility to you or to your slanderous words that constitute lashon hara.
    I do not know who you are or if we have ever met, but I found your words about me to be extremely hurtful, unfair and not factually based. You wrote that “what’s worse is that he [Michael Brooks] is training a demonic protege by the name of Jason Miller to continue his efforts to destroy Jewish life at Michigan once he leaves.”
    I do not take offense at your characterization of me as a protege of Michael Brooks, the executive director of University of Michigan Hillel Foundation. That is accurate and I, in fact, consider myself to be his protege. For your information, the dictionary defines protege as “One whose welfare, training, or career is promoted by an influential person.” [Source:The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition]. Michael Brooks is indeed an influential person and my welfare, training and career has in fact been promoted by him (for this I am grateful by the way).
    The same dictionary offers two definitions for the word “demonic”:
    1. Befitting a demon; fiendish.
    2. Motivated by a spiritual force or genius; inspired.
    I will give you the benefit of the doubt here Matt and presume that your use of the term demonic when describing me as a “demonic protege” was to convey the second meaning above.
    Were this your intention, then here too I would have to agree with you. My two years on staff at University of Michigan Hillel have indeed been “motivated by a spiritual force,” namely the Kadosh Barukh Hu, otherwise known as God. In fact, my life in general and my rabbinate in particular have both been motivated by God. My work at U-M Hillel has also been inspired. It has been inspired by the many students I have learned with, counseled, shmoozed with, celebrated with, grieved with, traveled with, etc. My work on campus has also been inspired by my colleagues, including of course Michael Brooks who you vilify as a “pig.”
    University of Michigan has somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 Jewish students on its Ann Arbor campus, and if as the saying goes “two Jews, three opinions,” then there are a lot of opinions among these Jewish students concerning the Jewish community on campus. Hillel tries to have as large a tent as possible to be able to accommodate and provide services to the many different types of Jewish students. This is why we have over thirty official groups under Hillel’s auspices. Not every Jewish student will find Hillel to be the right place for them during their years at the university and we are well aware of that, but we try as hard as possible to make our Hillel open and welcoming to as many students as we can.
    There are certain characteristics of our Hillel that are simply immutable; namely that we are committed to pluralism (we are not exclusively an Orthodox institution, nor are we Conservative, Reform, or secular) and we are pro-Israel. Incidentally, my personal stance on Israel (which is the same as my professional stance) has never been called into question. I have been a Zionist my entire life; extremely supportive of the Jewish State through many channels including living there, traveling there personally, leading groups to Israel, through activism and through financial support.
    Are there programs that Hillel sponsors that I do not agree with? Of course, but I also have tremendous respect for our student leaders and for my fellow staff members; and, I respect their decisions. Are there policies at Hillel that I do not agree with? Of course, but I do not make policy decisions at Michigan Hillel – we have a governing board that does that. When I feel the governing board might be misguided or that they are just not considering all the facts, I speak up at meetings, however my opinions are just that – opinions. Are there times I disagree with Michael Brooks or with his vision for Hillel? Yes, and part of our professional relationship has been the open and honest shakla v’tarya (give and take). There are times when I feel the need to “walk the party line” in public, but I have never backed down from challenging Michael in private. Fortunately for me and the rest of the staff (and student leaders), this is something that Michael highly encourages.
    Matt, you have publicly defamed me and you have publicly defamed the character of Michael Brooks, one of the great visionaries and communal leaders in the American Jewish community today. Michael is not destroying Jewish life at U-M and he has certainly not trained me to do similarly once he leaves (this happens to be my final year at Michigan Hillel anyway, but Michael will commence his twenty-seventh academic year this autumn). You have also made some very critical comments about a fine institution. There is certainly room for Michigan Hillel to improve, just as any institution can better itself. However, your words were neither insightful nor beneficial. If you are a Jewish student on the Ann Arbor campus I hope you will take about 30 minutes to sit with me and discuss your views. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt (again) that you can articulate your opinions better (and in a more respectful manner) in person than you have on the Web.
    Rabbi Jason Miller, Associate Director
    University of Michigan Hillel Foundation

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