STUDENTS' MOVEMENTS, JEWISH


In Central Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries most gentile students' societies did not accept Jews (see *Students' Associations, German). This experience, which continued also after World War I, except in the less numerous left-wing student associations, was one of the powerful motivations which led Jewish students to adhere to prevalent ideologies, whether revolutionary-internationalist or Zionist.

In eastern Europe, and particularly in the Russian Empire with its *numerus clausus, very few Jews could enter universities or even high schools. Many of them went to Swiss, German, or Austrian universities, and their associations and debating societies became nuclei of revolutionary and Zionist movements. In Poland between the two world wars Jewish students were often physically assailed by their antisemitic colleagues and sometimes even allotted segregated "ghetto" benches in the classrooms. As a result, many became either extreme revolutionaries (in practice, mostly members of illegal Communist cells), or Jewish nationalists, i.e., Zionists. Thus, Jewish students and students' societies played an important role at the inception of the Zionist movement, e.g., in Vienna (*Kadimah) and Prague (*Bar Kochba). Subsequently a number of other students' organizations and associations with cultural and literary aims played a significant part: in Berlin (e.g., the Russian Jewish Scientific Society), and in Russia and among Russian émigré students (e.g., *He-Ḥaver). In Germany the overall Jewish students' federation, *Kartell Juedischer Verbindungen (KJV), became Zionist, partly under the impact of the hostile "Aryan" ideology of their gentile colleagues. In the Baltic countries of the 1920s and 1930s *Revisionist students organized themselves in German-style "corporations" (such as "Hasmonaea" in Riga), including wearing "colors," collective beer drinking, fencing, etc., whereas Zionist and Labor Zionist students formed groups without these trappings (as He-Ḥaver and Ha-Shaḥar). Religious Zionist students formed the Yavneh society. After World War II no Jewish student groups were allowed to exist in Communist eastern Europe, except, for a short time, a semi-legal group in Poland in 1967–68, named after the Russian Jewish writer Isaac *Babel.

In Great Britain

Although Jews were admitted to British universities from the mid-19th century, their numbers did not at first encourage the establishment of Jewish student societies, and these were mainly inaugurated from the second decade of the 20th century. Immediately after World War I, in 1919, the Inter-University Jewish Federation (IUJF) was set up to coordinate the activities of Jewish student societies that had begun to spring up independently in London, Oxford, Cambridge, and the major provincial cities, such as Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester. The Federation's aim was to foster an interest among Jewish students in Judaism and Jewish history and culture, members being encouraged to involve themselves after graduation in the social and religious life of the Anglo-Jewish community. The University of London Jewish Union Society (ULJUS), an "umbrella" organization for the various student societies in the metropolitan area, was founded in 1922.

Student Zionist activity, which dates in Britain from the years immediately following the First Zionist Congress, met sufficient resistance in some Jewish students' societies to encourage the formation of separate Zionist associations and, from about 1924, the Universities' Zionist Federation (UZF) functioned alongside, and to some extent in competition with, the IUJF. During the 1930s the UZF amalgamated with the Association of Young Zionist Societies (mainly a non-student body), but organizational and other difficulties led to the old UZF's revival as the Universities' Zionist Council (UZC) shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Student Zionist activity intensified during the war years and the late 1940s. Both IUJF and UZC helped to organize cultural activities for their members. IUJF also published various periodicals, while UZC issued publications of its own. The two student organizations began to work in harmony after 1948, later operating together as IUJF-UZC, and finally merging in the 1960s when Zionism became part of the IUJF platform.

With the rapid increase in the number of Britain's "redbrick" universities after World War II, many more Jewish student societies were founded, in new areas. Major support was given to the Jewish students' organizations by the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation in London, which eventually set up Hillel Houses in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, and other university towns. From the early 1960s a chaplaincy commission operated with varying degrees of success, mainly in Oxford, Cambridge, and the smaller university towns, where Jewish students felt themselves to be isolated from the main community.

A high proportion of Jews studying at British universities took no part in the activities of the organized Jewish student body. Semi-independent religious groups existed within the general Jewish student framework, such as Liberal and Reform associations and the Orthodox Yavneh movement. There were in 1971 over 10,000 Jewish students in the British Isles, some two-thirds of whom had no connection with IUJF or any other Jewish student group. About 80 Jewish student societies and Israel societies were affiliated to IUJF. Jewish students were prominent in protest movements such as CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) in the 1960s and, later, in demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jewry. They were active in the World Union of Jewish Students (see below). In recent decades the Union of Jewish Students has had to deal with venomous anti-Zionism at some British campuses, especially during the period in the 1980s when the militant left controlled much of student life. Since about 1990, British campuses have been more quiescent, although demands to boycott Israeli universities and goods surfaced again during the 2002–05 period. Many Jews have found the anti-Zionism of extreme left-wing groups on British campuses little different from right-wing antisemitism. The British Union of Jewish Students was affiliated with the European Union of Jewish Students.

[Godfrey Edmond Silverman /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]

In France

The Union of French Jewish Students (Union des Etudiants Juifs de France; UEJF) was founded in Paris in 1945 and is affiliated to the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS). Before World War II there was no Jewish student movement in France. Organized Jewish life in France had mainly centered on religious or philanthropic activity, and entry to a university was thought of as a further step toward integration into French society. Only one institution provided a meeting place for Jewish students: this was the kasher canteen opened in Paris in 1921, intended for poor and Orthodox students. Pierre *Mendès-France, then a law student, was active in the establishment of this canteen, the Foyer israélite. The UEJF was formed by young Jewish resistance fighters, militants of the Eclaireurs israélites (see *Scouts), the Communist youth, and youth of Zionist organizations. It aimed to help needy students by offering scholarships, opening university canteens, and setting up a centralized employment bureau; to contribute to the revitalizing of Jewish life through the universities; and to develop an awareness of Jewish cultural values and Israel society through courses, publications, and trips to Israel. Branches were set up in various university cities: Paris, Lille, Nancy, Strasbourg, Lyons, Grenoble, Toulouse, Montpellier, Marseilles, etc. During the following ten years the Communists and Zionists struggled for the leadership in the administration of the UEJF. A measure of reawakening occurred between 1958 and 1962 due to political events associated with the war in Algeria. From 1967 the UEJF took an openly pro-Israel stand. The general student agitations in May 1968 stimulated its developments and confirmed it in its support for Israel.

The number of Jewish students attracted by the Jewish student movement never exceeded 10% of the total. The upheavals experienced in many French universities in 1969 and 1970 sometimes became confrontations between Jewish groups divided on the question of the Middle East conflict. Relations between the UEJF and communal institutions were often strained: the students complained that they were not allowed to participate in the direction of Jewish life and that they were not granted the funds necessary for the realization of their program. The communal leaders, on the other hand, suspected the Jewish youth movement of compromising with the Communist party and left-wing organizations. The achievements of the UEJF were modest. Private and communal initiative resulted in the establishment of residential buildings and university restaurants in Paris and Strasbourg, as well as a Jewish study center in the capital and clubs in a number of university cities. Although active in these institutions, the UEJF was not always associated with their foundation and direction. A periodical, Kadimah, was published sporadically by the UEJF and, in association with private publishers, it organized the printing and distribution of various works on Judaica. The UEJF continues to be active in such matters as Holocaust memorialization, antisemitism, and Israel.

[Lucien Lazare]

In the U.S.

The oldest Jewish student organization on a North American campus, Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity, was founded in New York City in 1898 to encourage the study of Jewish life and culture among Jewish students. Soon afterward, however, it was converted into a Greek-letter fraternity. Additional Jewish student clubs emerged at the City College of New York (1902), Minnesota (1903), Harvard and Columbia (1905), Illinois and Texas (1907), Yale (1909), and California (1910). Most of these groups were gradually absorbed by the Intercollegiate Menorah Association, which was founded by Henry *Hurwitz at Harvard in 1906, and grew to 50 chapters by 1930. Designed to promote the academic study of Jewish culture in the university and to serve as a platform for the nonpartisan discussion of Jewish problems, the association sponsored a speakers' bureau, provided Judaica for several university libraries, tried unsuccessfully to stimulate university study of Jewish history and culture, and published the Menorah Journal (1915–62). No Menorah chapter remained in existence after World War II; the Menorah Association was dissolved in 1963.

Zionist societies sprang up at several major universities, independent of the Menorah Association. They formed the Collegiate Zionist League in 1905, which merged in 1915 with other Zionist student groups to become the Intercollegiate Zionist Association. At its peak in 1919 it had a membership of 2,500 in 33 chapters, but it disbanded shortly after the Zionist Organization of America withdrew support in 1920. Five years later a successor organization, Avukah, was founded. It grew to 56 chapters in the United States and Canada by 1939 but was dissolved in 1942, largely as a result of the rapid turnover of student leadership and a persistent lack of funds.

Professional direction combined with organized program services and community support for Jewish collegiate activities were provided for the first time with the coming of the B'nai B'rith Hillel foundations to the American campus. Founded at the University of Illinois in 1923, and funded, since 1925, primarily by B'nai B'rith, with supplements from Jewish federations and welfare funds, Hillel maintained, in 1969, a network of 274 foundations (chapters with full-time professional staff) and counselorships (part-time staff). Of the total, 252 were in the United States and Canada and 22 were in Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Israel, South Africa, Switzerland, and Venezuela. Hillel also supported chairs of Judaic studies (Iowa, Missouri, Vanderbilt), and Hillel staff members taught accredited courses in Judaic studies at 40 additional institutions. Hillel's campus activities included lectures and classes in Jewish thought and life, the holding of religious services and holiday observances, the running and support of international, national, and regional student institutes, social service and social action projects, counseling services, student publications, and social programs. Hillel was governed by the B'nai B'rith Hillel Commission, and the international Hillel office in Washington, DC, provided resources and administrative guidance for the individual Hillel chapters.

In the 1970s and 1980s Hillel's effectiveness declined after a cutback in funding, but it revived in the late 1980s under the direction of Richard Joel. In the early 2000s it had approximately 250 affiliates in the U.S. and Canada serving college and university students on more than 500 campuses, an additional three dozen campus and community-based affiliates in other countries, and a global budget in excess of $60 million. Hillel was viewed widely as one of the early 21st century's major success stories in Jewish organizational life. Thirty-four percent of Jewish undergraduate students in the U.S. participate in Hillel activities, according to a market research study conducted in 2005.

Similar student programs, with full-time professional staff but independent of Hillel, existed at Rutgers-Newark, Columbia (Counselorship for Jewish Students, established in 1929), New York University (Jewish Culture Foundation, established in 1937), and Long Island University in Brooklyn. Unaffiliated Jewish student groups without professional guidance existed at more than 120 colleges and universities in 1969.

As the number of Jewish students increased, additional student groups were organized, mainly along denominational or ideological lines, among them Atid, the college-age organization of the Conservative movement (founded in 1960); Yavneh, an organization of Orthodox Jewish students (founded in 1960); and T'hiyah, a Reconstructionist university fellowship. The Reform movement maintained a college service department but no separate collegiate organization. In addition, the United Synagogue of America subsidized, and the National Council of Young Israel (Orthodox) sponsored or subsidized, student houses and kosher dining clubs.

Attempts were also made to reestablish an effective Zionist campus program. After Avukah's dissolution, the Intercollegiate Zionist Federation of America (IZFA) was founded in 1946 with the partial support of the American Zionist Youth Commission. During the period immediately preceding the founding of the State of Israel, IZFA's membership rose to 10,000, but it dropped after the state was established, and the organization was dissolved in 1953. A year later, it was succeeded by the Student Zionist Organization (SZO), which was sponsored and supported by the American Zionist Youth Foundation. SZO had about 2,500 members in 70 college chapters in the United States and Canada in 1963 but lost membership rapidly in the second half of the '60s and was replaced by American Students for Israel and similar, often radical, groups supported mainly by the American Zionist Youth Foundation.

Jewish participation in student activism became prominent from the middle 1960s on. Accurate statistics are not available, but several studies estimate that one-third to one-half of the committed identifiable radicals on the most activist campuses were Jewish. They were found to come largely from families which were urban, well-educated, professional, and affluent, with a high degree of permissiveness, a stress on democratic interpersonal relations and on values other than achievement – dominant characteristics of the urban middle-class Jewish group. Initially, Jewish students participated primarily in general activist or radical organizations. Many of them, unidentified with organized Jewish life, were motivated less by Jewish commitments than by their general social and political concerns. However, in the late 1960s Jewish students also began to form specific Jewish activist campus groups as a result of their rejection by the black movement, their disappointment with the growing anti-Israel stance of the New Left, and a growing self-awareness which turned them to the needs of the Jewish community as the arena for acting out their moral and social convictions. Their objectives included the establishment of accredited Jewish studies programs at universities, the development of "Free Jewish Universities" involving students and faculty in the study of Jewish thought and life, political action on behalf of Israel and Soviet Jewry, the stimulation of supportive action for peace and social justice by the Jewish community, and action countering the anti-Israel activities of the New Left and Arab students. In 1969–70 such groups were operating on about 80 campuses under various names – Jewish Student Bund, Concerned Jewish Students, Jewish Student Union, Jewish Activist League, Na'asseh. Many published campus newspapers; membership generally ranged from 10 to 50 in each branch.

Social and professional fraternities constituted still another facet of Jewish group life on the campus. ZBT, the first Jewish fraternity, was followed by Sigma Epsilon Delta (1901) for dental students, Phi Delta Epsilon (1904) for medical students, and Iota Alpha Pi (1903), the first sorority. The number of social groups grew steadily with the increase in Jewish enrollment and the exclusion of Jews from the general fraternities and sororities. In 1941, 12 national social Jewish fraternities, five national sororities, and 17 professional fraternities had 540 local chapters and a membership of 85,000, in addition to several local organizations without national affiliation. Several national groups were nondenominational, but their membership was almost exclusively Jewish, and although most of them occasionally supported Jewish projects or programs, their chief purpose was social.

After World War II, in response to changing university policies and the growing public demand for the elimination of discriminatory restrictions, most Greek-letter societies began to accept members regardless of social, racial, or religious background. Deprived of one of their major reasons for existence, most Jewish groups experienced a significant drop in membership, leading to mergers of several national groups and the closing of local chapters by the late 1960s.

[Alfred Jospe]

In Israel

During the school year 1970–71 about 44,000 students (including Arabs, Druze, and Jews from abroad) were studying at ten universities and colleges. In 2004–5, 245,000 students were registered in eight universities, 23 colleges, and 26 teacher colleges. The Israel students' average age is higher than that of students in other countries because most of them serve in the army for three years prior to their university attendance. During their studies the students are frequently called to the army reserves. Many are married and most of them work to support themselves. All these are factors limiting political, social, and cultural activity. Social and political activity among students is often outside the framework of the students' organizations. About 15% of the students are active in student "cells" of the political parties, in local student unions, and in the National Union. A National Union of Students, to represent all the students, was first set up in the 1930s (local unions had begun to function in the 1920s). It is the roof organization of the local unions and is headed by a presidium composed of the chairmen of the local unions. Elections to the local unions and the National Union are held yearly. The National Union is the Israel branch of the World Union of Jewish Students and the chairman of the union is the vice chairman of WUJS.

WORLD UNION OF JEWISH STUDENTS

The World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS, or UMEJ in French and Spanish) was founded in 1924 by a number of European Jewish student unions and had among its early presidents and officers such personalities as Albert *Einstein, Chaim *Weizmann, Simon *Dubnow, Sigmund *Freud, Stephen S. *Wise, Ḥayyim Naḥman *Bialik, and Sir Hersch *Lauterpacht. Most of the archives of the organization were destroyed during the Holocaust, and afterward the officers themselves discarded old records. During its initial stages WUJS concerned itself with such problems as the numerus clausus in eastern European universities, the building of a student house at The Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, etc. During World War II the center was transferred from Paris to Switzerland, and the most important activity of WUJS was to provide refuge for Jewish students, victims of Nazi persecution. After World War II, until 1948, WUJS had member organizations in Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Poland, and Romania, as well as official connections with the youth of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee of the U.S.S.R. In 1948, back in Paris, WUJS involved itself in the work of the World Student Relief, the International Student Service, and UNESCO. In the late 1950s, after some years of lethargy, the organization recovered and remained centered in Paris until 1968, when the secretariat was moved to London.

The core of WUJS's activities until 1967 was the furthering of Jewish identity, but following the *Six-Day War (1967) WUJS became openly pro-Zionist, supporting aliyah and other activities centered on Israel, and it affiliated to the World Zionist Organization in 1968. A process of political radicalization characterized the Union during 1967–70. However, the decrease of the impact of the New Left in the early 1970s led to a renewed interest in furthering Jewish education. In 1971 WUJS comprised 30 national union members and correspondent student organizations, as well as individual Jewish student affiliates from countries where the functioning of Jewish institutions is not permitted. The total membership was estimated at 100,000 to 110,000, of which approximately 50,000 were represented through the North American Jewish Students' network and 35,000 are members of the National Union of Israel Students. The supreme authority of the union is the WUJS Congress, where national Jewish student unions are represented proportionately to their membership (with a maximum of eight delegates). The Congress generally convenes in Israel every three years.

The main activities of WUJS fall into three categories: educational, political, and Israel-oriented or Zionist. WUJS published numerous pamphlets and journals on basic Judaism. Political activity is centered mainly on action to combat antisemitism and neo-Nazism with the cooperation of non-Jewish student organizations, and action in connection with the Israel-Arab conflict. There were also protests, demonstrations, picketing, and the coordination of activities all over the world on behalf of Jews in Arab countries (especially after the Baghdad executions) and in defense of Soviet Jewry. Contacts were maintained with general international organizations, particularly with the International Students' Organization. Many WUJS activities are oriented around and centered in Israel. In addition to various summer schemes in Israel, in 1967 WUJS established an International Graduate Institute at Arad, its program allowing participants to learn Hebrew, basic Judaism, and Israel studies.

WUJS provides an umbrella framework for nearly all different trends existing in the Jewish world. The weight of each of its trends varies continuously, and it is therefore difficult to define the composition of its leadership. Student unions in Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium have usually provided an extreme-left Zionist approach. Unions in Switzerland, U.K., Ireland, South Africa, and Australia were strongly Zionist with a religious predominance. North America is mostly represented through the Radical Zionists. Latin America, constantly in a very isolated position, represents the "middle-way" Zionist.

[Edy Kaufman]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.