Gary Rosenblatt has a piece this week in the New York Jewish Week about the war in Chicago between the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the University of Chicago’s Hillel.   Click here to get caught up on the back-story.

I highlight this piece because, in essence, it is the first concrete example of conflict between pre-radical-break Jews and Next Jews.  And I am loathe to portray it as a “conflict”, except that it is.

As Rosenblatt reported:

The Hillel board, in a March 28 letter to the federation, sought to restructure its relationship with federation and make the Hillel an “independent entity,” asserting that federation left it “in the position of either having a building without a program or a program without a building.”

The Hillel folks clearly preferred the latter while the Federation, it seemed, advocated firmly the former.   And when I say “advocated firmly”, I mean “forcibly enforced” as in, the federation fired the University of Chicago Hillel board and executive director Daniel Libenson on March 30 for their insistence on preferring programming over infrastructure.

Large dining hall, empty except for about ten members of the...

That's me in the back...

Was preferring programs to buildings a misguided position?  After all, what is Hillel (or the Federation or Temple Beth…) without its building?

Libenson disagrees.  His greatest campus success – Shabbat dinners – is but one example as to why he prefers programs.  It also intimates to where Next Jews are going – and it’s definitely not into establishment edifices.

When Shabbat dinners happened in the Hillel building, Libenson pointed out, 30 students would come. However, when Shabbat was welcomed in a regular dining hall rented by Hillel, 200 would take part.   (That’s a 566% increase in attendance in case you were wondering.)

I will be talking more about this developing story at the May 10 book launch.  And I will be blogging here about the others that will inevitably follow as Next Jews begin to assert their own needs and, sadly, their predecessors ignore them.

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