Membership in the Forum includes a chance to be published in a digital publication dedicated to interesting reporting about life on campus, from a Jewish perspective. Below is an Editor’s Note from one of the editors of our new publication, Daniel Kane.
Ours is a moment of upheaval and change. In recent years, the long-standing social, cultural, and political arrangements of the past have been challenged, battered, and transformed. As Americans, we perceive that the ground beneath our feet has shifted, and that much of what was once thought permanent and secure is in fact contingent and vulnerable. Very little, it increasingly seems, can simply be taken for granted.
American Jewry, in particular, has greeted the gradual unsettling of American life with growing unease. All around us we see the historically familiar signs of the sort of social instability that breeds anti-Semitism, and our worst fears are confirmed by the shocking outbreak of violence in Pittsburgh, Poway, Monsey and Brooklyn. In addition, the rise of a virulent anti-Zionism, couched, as it so often is, in transparently anti-Semitic tropes and assumptions, has sent shockwaves through Jewish communities around the country. For the first time in recent memory, Jews are questioning their place in American society.
Though the sources of our national angst and confusion are varied, American universities remain at the center of emerging cultural trends. For those seeking to make sense of the social movements taking shape — to predict and plan for their impacts when they inevitably enter the broader culture — an in-depth examination of the currents of university life is indispensable. For Jewish leaders especially, understanding the place of Jewish interests and institutions in relation to emerging intellectual and cultural movements will be essential for navigating the social and political flux of our time.
In that spirit, the Tikvah Collegiate Forum will shine a light on the American university, and the Jewish experience within it. Through the participation of young Jewish leaders on campuses around the country, we will serve as a platform for those who can provide insight on the rapidly evolving situation “on the ground.” Though keenly aware of the difficulties facing the rising generation of American Jews, we embark on this project with a belief in the capacity of young Jewish-Americans to not merely meet the challenges of our time, but thrive amidst them.
Surveying the cultural landscape, one is struck by the many people already committed to that work. Whatever confluence of chaotic forces has seized hold of the universities, there remain vital pockets resistance — of people, communities, and institutions charting their own course. Nowhere is this more true than among American Jews, whose doggedness and dynamism in adapting to changing circumstances has secured meaningful on-campus victories in recent years.
The Tikvah Collegiate Forum will catalogue, celebrate, and display these successes. We will work to develop a network of like-minded students who can build upon these achievements, and who will support one-another in their work. In these tumultuous times, we will offer young Jewish-Americans a source of clarity and hope.
Examples of pitches we’re looking for:
- On many campuses, options for Hebrew language and Jewish-studies courses are in short supply. To meet student demand, a number of Jewish organizations have endeavored to offer for-credit classes at campus Hillels. Where and how have these programs been implemented successfully? What administrative obstacles have stood in the way of this kind of programming?
- Jewish studies departments have always occupied a strange position as a sort of hybrid between religious studies and ethnic studies. In recent years, the tension between these two areas of emphases has increased, as courses on Jewish identity have been offered by those with very little interest of expertise on Jewish religion. On one campus, professors in the Jewish studies department have developed a “core curriculum” that balances student interests in the studying both the ethnic and religious components of Jewish studies. How did the professors develop this curriculum? How was it received by the students and the faculty in other departments?
- For many Jews on campus, in-person events at Chabad, Hillel, and other Jewish organizations play a central role in Jewish life on campus. For some, a Shabbat dinner at Chabad may be the only formal expression of their Judaism that they perform in a typical week. As the pandemic continues to limit in-person events overall, how have Jewish students adjusted to these times? Have they found ways to compensate for the loss of Jewish connection? Or have the virtual options provided by Jewish institutions on campus not sufficiently enticed Jewish student participation?
- A rogue adjunct professor at Carleton College teamed up 10 years ago with a political science professor to teach a course called “Windows on the Good Life.” It began as a co-curricular initiative and evolved into a credit bearing course because of the overflow of interest. They do close readings of the Hebrew Bible, Plato, and Shakespeare. The class has been oversubscribed for 30 straight terms, even as they have gone from 20 students per term to 40 (in 2 sections) to 70. How do they approach teaching these texts, in particular the Hebrew Bible?
- The importance in American politics of Christian support for the Jewish state is well documented – arguably it overshadows by far the importance of allegiance and activism among Jews. There is a very well organized network of pro-Israel Jewish students on campuses. What are they doing to learn about and nourish support for Christian Zionists in their peer group? Tell the story of one or two campus where there is something like this on the radar.
- Surging support for the Black Lives Matter movement among students at the University of Texas has led to a change of tactics among anti-Israel activists on campus. Operating under the banner of “intersectionality,” pro-Palestinian groups have developed a campaign to denigrate Israel and Zionism by drawing parallels between Palestinians and African Americans, the IDF and the police, etc. How persuasive has this new approach been among the students? How have pro-Israel groups responded?
- Levels of Jewish affiliation are in decline among students at the University of Minnesota. In an attempt to attract new members, a number of historically Jewish Greek-life organizations have sought to distance themselves from their Jewish identities. How has that shift been perceived by the Jewish members of these organizations? By other Jewish organizations on campus?
If you’d like to send in ideas for articles, or just want to talk about how to get more involved, please use the form below.
Associate Director of University Programs