Hillel Turns Focus Towards Half-Jews & The Secular
Hillel excitedly announces:
“We’ve created what we call a BHAG – a big, hairy, audacious goal – to double the number of students who have meaningful Jewish experiences,” Hillel President Avraham Infeld said. “We want to ensure all Jewish students, from those with a traditional upbringing to those without a strong Jewish background, that there is a warm, welcoming Jewish community for them on campus.”
[… A] survey of more than 600 Jewish undergraduate and graduate students revealed a lot about the Millennial generation, including greater likelihoods that:
- They are a part of an interfaith family;
- They have a non-Jewish boyfriend or girlfriend;
- They identify as ethnically Jewish rather than religiously Jewish; and
- They feel they have a responsibility to serve not only the Jewish people, but the global community.
This data has helped Hillel focus its mission – “to enrich the lives of Jewish undergraduate and graduate students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world” – and define its core organizational values. With an emphasis on pluralism, social justice, Jewish learning and Israel, Hillel hopes to inspire every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life.
No word though on whether or not Jews who are vocally critical of Israel (progressive Zionists, post-Zionists and anti-Zionists alike) are welcome in the Hillel community…*** UPDATE ***
Former Vice President of International Affairs for Hillel, Richard Marker writes, “The real issue is how much of this is marketing hype and how much of it is likely to change the way Hillels and others do business. When Hillel capitalized on the issues raised in the 1990 Jewish population survey, almost nothing Hillel did was actually new but it was packaged in such a way as to bring substantial new support in – under the guise of being new. That wasn’t a bad thing; in fact it was a very good thing since it brought substantial new monies to the Hillel table. It meant that lots of new staff and programs WERE able to provide for expanded saturation of the campus market. But for all the new ‘programs’ it still left substantial numbers of marginally identified Jews on campus feeling as outsiders. Even the ‘campus service corps’ – which was a major expansion of programs lots of us had done for years – was built on a problematic starting point: it assumed that the most transient and least trained staff were best able to deal with the majority of the Jews on any given campus, without providing any real training to the rest of the staff on how to change the internal culture which allowed most Hillels to be controlled by the committed minority. Similarly, if the result of this study is to hire newly graduated people, and tell them that the millenialists are a special cohort but not really the main target audience of Hillel, the impact on campus will be only incremental. Real change requires real change.”
Joseph Gindi, a former Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow of Hillel at Yale writes, “I second Richard’s assessment. I’m not sure if real change will happen. I think there needs to be a radical re-imaging of what the goals of Hillel are. If the goals are to prevent intermarriage, then they are never going to reach out to many multi-faith students because the goals of Hillel will be perceived as counter to their own identity (which they are). As for critics of Israel, I also dont see much movement. In fact, the end of the article included Israel, meaning support for Israel, as one of the four emphases of Hillel. In fact, Hillel views birthright trips as a way to get folks involved. Since those trips are designed (with some notable exceptions) to foster a simplistic and uncritical love of Israel, they actually further narrow the Israel discourse on campuses. That said, we can all hope they get the ‘right’ messages from this research. I’m not sure they will, but at least its a step in the right direction.” –>