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North American Jewish Students Appeal Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-338 and I-338A

Scope and Content Note

The collection documents the working proceedings of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, including the organization's work in the area of promoting Jewish identity among college youth as well as NAJSA's work on behalf of its eight primary and smaller, satellite Constituents. The collection covers the period of NAJSA's existence, from 1971 to 1996, though a few materials derive from the 1960s, mostly concerning RESPONSE, SSSJ, YAVNEH and YUNGTRUF and the founding history of NAJSA. However, the material for these four Constituents and the founding history of the NAJSA is sketchy within the collection prior to 1971. The collection can be grouped into several categories: 1) correspondence and records dealing directly with the NAJSA and its Trustees, Board, and national Jewish organizations and the interaction between the NAJSA and its Constituents; 2) financial, activity, fundraising, and promotional records of the Constituents; 3) financial and fundraising records regarding the NAJSA, including national and local Federations, constructing budgets and allocating funds to Constituents; 4) beneficiary grants awarded by the NAJSA and their impact on Jewish-related programming and publishing on the University student level; and 5) ephemera, magazines, and journals from the Constituents, beneficiaries and national Jewish organizations.

Dates

  • undated, 1962, 1964-1996
  • Majority of material found within 1971 - 1995

Creator

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:

American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA and New York, NY.

Historical Note

The events leading up to the formation of the North American Jewish Students Appeal (NAJSA or APPEAL) began in May 1969 when the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) sponsored a conference in Brewster, NY. The conference, attended by a collection of students, young adults and student activists, focused on issues concerning the state of Judaism among American youth, organization of the students into a viable movement, and from the student's viewpoint, how to conduct effective and meaningful communications between them and the older generation of the Federations. Out of this conference arose the North American Jewish Students NETWORK, a communications, information and resource arm of the WUJS. As an umbrella service providing information on strategies and tactics through NETWORK, Jewish students and young adults were able to coordinate and plan for organized disruptions at the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Fund's (CJFWF) General Assembly (GA) in Boston from November 12-18, 1969, coinciding with the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the American Federation movement.1

The students, not originally scheduled to speak at any sessions, were exceptionally vocal at the Boston assembly, staging sit-ins and protests and disrupting the normal functions of the yearly gathering. The students were empowered by two factors in staging their disruptions at the Assembly. The Black Power Movement, which some of the students had been involved with, had introduced "the concept that strong ethnic identification was not only good, but necessary," and the 1967 War in the Middle East caused young and old Jews to "express openly their Jewish identity." The students also viewed themselves as up against an "entrenched Federation system" that was slow to act and that Synagogue-associated youth groups such as Hillel were ill-equipped, financially or with the manpower, to address a vocal and somewhat radicalized activist generation of Jewish youth who felt both 'turned-off' to their Jewish identity and 'tuned-out' by established youth groups.

The vocal students were allotted time to speak at a Luncheon session of the GA, choosing as their representative Rabbi Hillel Levine. Levine was a Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of Social Relations at Harvard and a Graduate of the Rabbinical College at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). Rabbi Levine began by stating that:

  1. "But we see ourselves as more than children of our times; we see ourselves as children of timelessness. We see ourselves as your children, the children of Jews who with great dedication concern themselves with the needs of the community, the children of those who bring comfort to the afflicted, give aid to the poor, who have built mammoth philanthropic organizations, who have aided the remnants of the Holocaust, who have given unfalteringly to the building of Israel... We are your children, and I affirm this, but we want to be not only your children, but also builders. We want to participate with you in building the vision of a great Jewish community."3

Constituent Historical Note

The Constituents of the APPEAL were expected to meet certain financial and obligatory commitments in order to remain part of the APPEAL allocation process. The criteria for becoming an NAJSA Constituent rested on whether the organization was a national and independent group that had no parent foundation funding or policy-making body overseeing the organization. All policy had to set by a student or young adult governing board.

The relationship between the Constituents and the APPEAL was sometimes rocky, as personalities and priorities clashed. On the whole, however, the relationship worked well, with the APPEAL alleviating some of the financial worries of the Constituents, and the Constituents serving as an advertising vehicle for the APPEAL. The Constituents sent monthly activity, quarterly and yearly audit reports to the APPEAL who in turn submitted activity and financial presentations to the LCBC and local Federations. The reports and audits arriving from the Constituents were sporadic at times. In cases where the quarterlies were not received by the end of the months of September, January, April and July, allocations were held until receipt; in cases of audits arriving after the August 15 deadline of each year, a withholding penalty was imposed of 1% of the group's allocation. Any total withheld was then divided and allocated to other Constituents. Penalties and allocation withholding was not used often by the APPEAL. However, when it was absolutely necessary, the APPEAL did employ these methods to enforce compliance. In 1978, after repeated attempts to obtain financial reports from YAVNEH on a timely basis, the tensions between the two groups escalated to such a degree that YAVNEH withdrew from the APPEAL. Two years later, the group had reorganized itself and attempted to rejoin the APPEAL.

Constituents were unable to solicit funds directly from any individual Federation. This method insured that the Federations were not bombarded by a multitude of requests while securing some continuity in the APPEAL's approach. NETWORK requested endowment funds from the Federations, thereby violating the by-law and leading to NETWORK's temporary withdrawal plus a 1% penalty fee imposed on NETWORK until it fell into 'compliance.' During this period, the tensions between the APPEAL and NETWORK led to the complete withdrawal of NETWORK from the NAJSA in 1985.

Constituents received monthly Governing Board minutes and correspondence from the APPEAL. The Constituents were not mandated to send their board minutes and correspondence to the APPEAL. The APPEAL did not interfere with or dictate the affairs of the Constituents unless it came to matters of the appropriate spending of money by the Constituents. In one incident between the APPEAL and JSPS in the early 1990s, the APPEAL believed that JSPS was mismanaging its funds and initiated a review of JSPS' finances. Though the editor of JSPS' New Voices resigned from JSPS because of supposed improprieties, the records are unclear as to whether JSPS actually mismanaged funds.

Allocations received from the Federations to the NAJSA for distribution to the Constituents were issued on the basis of allocation formulas. The Constituents were reviewed and critiqued based on the previous academic year's activities and projection of activities for the new academic year. Included in this critique and review was Constituent participation in the life and function of the APPEAL, and a budgetary review. After each Constituent presented their yearly review to the Governing Board, Board members cast secret ballots, noting each Constituent's allocation percentage. Monetary percentages were averaged by the Executive Committee and presented to the Governing Board for a final vote.

The Constituents were encouraged to submit grant proposals to the APPEAL. At Constituent conferences, conventions or seminars, APPEAL presentations were made to participants, consisting of a history of the APPEAL, description of the Constituent groups, a summary of the financial status of the Appeal and how participants could help promote or join the NAJSA as a Governing Board delegate. Participants to any of the Constituent events were encouraged to send a letter to their local Federation concerning any events attended. Trustees of the NAJSA received Constituent mailings, and Constituents provided the NAJSA office with promotional materials for fundraising purposes. In the case of JSPS, any publishing venture supported by JSPS was required to send copies of their publications to the NAJSA.

The NAJSA's philosophy was that the APPEAL was not a 'bank', but part of the Constituent process, or a communal family, each with their own responsibilities, but functioning together with a shared sense of purpose. Frequent and clear communication, consideration and sensitivity were highly valued under the APPEAL umbrella. Though this philosophy did not always pan out, for the most part, the relations between the NAJSA and the Constituents worked well, and the APPEAL always worked tirelessly on behalf of its Constituent organizations.

Constituent Brief Histories Information for this section is taken from yearly presentation materials written by the APPEAL and its Constituents for review by the Federations. Allocation presentations may be found in Series III: Constituents, Subseries 1: General Records.

Bayit Project

The Bayit (house or home) Project, was a collection of communal houses for campus activists in Israel and North America, sponsored in part, though unaffiliated with, the Progressive Zionist Caucus. The project was established in 1982, with headquarters located in Los Angeles serving as a central office for 'disseminating programmatic resources and financial support' to the individual houses under the program. The APPEAL provided funding for programmatic events sponsored by the project and not for the upkeep or maintenance of properties. The first allocation presented to the Project from the NAJSA was advanced to them, as the Governing Board had not decided their official allocation amount at the time of joining the APPEAL. When the project became a Constituent in November 1987, there were 23 houses or batim established in eight states. By 1993, additional houses were established in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, Israel, UC Berkeley in California and the University of Pittsburgh. Students living in the bayits performed weekly community and Jewish student outreach activities and service projects. The program produced the newsletters Kidma and the Bayit Bulletin. The Bayit Project was affiliated with the Bayit Foundation and Project Orchim ("hospitality").

Lights in Action (LIA)

Lights in Action developed out of Columbia University by Ze'ev Maghen in 1991, after students protesting against an anti-Semitic speech spurred him to write an article in promotion of Judaism. Among the co-founders of LIA were students from other colleges, such as Dasee Berkowitz and Sasha Levin from Bernard College and Rivky Shuchatovitz from Stern College, Yeshiva University. LIA was dedicated to promoting Jewish identity and Zionist commitment among college-aged Jews. The name derives from a theme ("hundreds of lights going into action") developed for a celebration of Jewish identity in December 1991 at Washington Square Park in New York City. From this celebration, LIA created and distributed mailings on Jewish/Zionist identity, developed Sabbath programming (Shabbat Leumit) based on the WUJS model of worldwide Shabbat, and distributed colorful, well-produced posters, calendars and Shabbat cards that stressed the positive experiences of Jewish culture and worship. Well-organized and enthusiastic, LIA distributed and developed materials to over 175 campuses across the US and Canada, developing seminars in conjunction with Hillel and the Aleph Society, and becoming a delegate member of the World Union of Jewish Students. The American Jewish Historical Society holds the currently unprocessed Records of Lights in Action, 1991-2001

Jewish Student Press Service (JSPS)

The Jewish Student Press Service was organized in 1970 and continues to serve the American Jewish student community. The Service was established by NETWORK to act as a clearinghouse for Jewish student and young adult publications for worldwide distribution with technical and editorial services provided. JSPS became independent of NETWORK in February 1971, thereby meeting the criteria of the APPEAL for membership.

JSPS staff consisted of an editor/administrator who managed the everyday organization of the JSPS offices. The managing editor also edited a monthly packet of feature articles and eventually New Voices , which began publication in 1991. Other staff included a part-time secretary, two field workers and an Israel bureau editor. JSPS sponsored conferences including the National Editors Conference, New York, West Coast and Israel Editors Conferences and in partnership with the World Zionist Organization, the Do the Right Thing Journalism Conference. JSPS co-sponsored several symposiums with RESPONSE, including a conference on "Multiculturalism, Jews and the Campus" in 1991.

North American Jewish Students Network (NETWORK)

NETWORK provided the impetus for the birth of the APPEAL and was considered the most 'sellable' of the NAJSA groups. NETWORK was student-created, student-run and involved all the politically, religiously and geographically disparate elements of the Jewish student community. In May 1969, the World Union of Jewish Students, a London-based organization, gathered 150 Jewish student leaders together in Brewster, NY to discuss issues concerning Jewish youth in the U.S. and Canada. The two main issues the Brewster conference focused on were the resurgence of interest in issues of Judaism in young people after the end of the Six Day War and strategies for organizing a Jewish student movement. A result of that meeting was the formation of NETWORK as a communications link and resource center to disseminate a wide range of information to concerned Jewish young people across the broad spectrum of North American Judaism.

NETWORK formed a central communications link between diverse groups of Jewish youth while also linking U.S. and Canadian students. Advice and help in developing student programming was disseminated through a resource center, linking students and student groups to speakers, films, educational resources, program ideas and institutional contacts. NETWORK provided encouragement for student-initiated and directed projects while stimulating "Jewish activists to reach out to other unaffiliated, uninvolved Jewish students." Finally, NETWORK served as a common forum for Jewish students, a place where the gamut of Jewish student movements from counter-culture radicals to Chassidics could talk about and act on priorities of concern as well as reach out to inactive young Jews.

NETWORK published a newspaper and The Guide to Jewish Student Groups, a compendium of Jewish student groups throughout North America. NETWORK sponsored annual conventions including a yearly conference, the New York Jewish Leaders Conference, Pan American Jewish Students Conference and the Israel Task Force. NETWORK sponsored an Israel Awareness Week (held in November), created a Yom Kippur War Israel News Hotline, held forums and conferences on Jewish women, pioneered the New Jewish Media Project, which sponsored Jewish film festivals and published a catalog of Jewish film and television; sponsored the Chavurots communal Jewish housing program, and helped to create the Jewish Arts and Crafts Community, a collective of Jewish artists and formed the Jewish Student Press Service. NETWORK also initiated the APPEAL by gathering the six original constituents under one fundraising arm.6

While NETWORK was the forerunner of NAJSA's Constituents, the relationship eventually was strained to the point of breaking. NETWORK withdrew from the APPEAL in 1978, rejoined a few years later, and withdrew again in March 1985. The first withdrawal was instigated when the American Zionist Youth Foundation (AZYF) prompted a takeover of NETWORK, thereby invalidating NAJSA's by-laws that all Constituents were to remain free from parent organizations. The second withdrawal began in Fall 1981 when NETWORK approached the Federations on their own for funding. NETWORK stated the funds were for endowments and claimed that the NAJSA failed to secure appropriate funding from the Federations. NETWORK decided afterward to abide by the APPEAL By-laws, but strain between the two organizations increased and NETWORK withdrew permanently in March 1985.

Progressive Zionist Caucus (PZC)

The Progressive Zionist Caucus joined the APPEAL shortly after NETWORK departed, becoming an official Constituent on February 12, 1987. Founded in 1982, the PZC was the only Jewish campus organization that specifically supported the efforts of the Israeli peace movement. According to NAJSA presentation reports, PZC, "Because of its alternative Zionist approach…appeals to politically sensitive students whose concerns are not always addressed by other Jewish campus groups... PZC provides these students with a Zionist framework to support Israel which examines certain policies of the Israeli government while working for social and political change."7

PZC chapters were located on 50 North American campuses and published the La'Inyan (To The Point) annual journal and Makor, sourcebooks providing synopses on progressive Zionist ideology and offering suggestions to progressive Zionist campus activists. The Caucus sponsored diverse campus events including speakers, films, seminars, Seders, and Arab-Jewish dialogue groups. Prominent peace activists and politicians from North America and Israel regularly spoke on campuses through PZC. PZC also sponsored seminars on Aliyah ("going up" or moving to Israel) and leadership, participated in the Spitzer Forums on Public Policy, Hillel's National Leadership Conference and in General Assemblies.

Response: A Contemporary Jewish Review (RESPONSE)

RESPONSE termed itself a 'Contemporary Jewish Review' due to its publication of articles written by student thinkers as a 'vehicle for serious political and social commentary,' providing a forum for young writers, essayists, literary critics, artists, poets and short story writers. Begun in 1967 at Columbia University by undergraduate students, RESPONSE originally began as a quarterly, but due to monetary constraints, eventually published three journals per year, one of which appeared as a double issue. RESPONSE was an editorially independent student publication, using volunteer writers and editors. The Editorial Board of RESPONSE met on a monthly basis to discuss manuscripts while a part-time, paid sales manager conducted the administrative work of the journal. RESPONSE relied almost exclusively on the monies supplied to it by the NAJSA and subscribers. The journal distributed 1000 free copies to campuses, and approximately 2000 subscribers included libraries, synagogues and private subscribers worldwide.

Issues of Response covered a wide range of topics, sometimes based on a theme. Issues focused on new fiction by American Jews, intermarriage, family life, and feminist topics; the political links of homosexuals and Jews, books reviews, the Holocaust, and the relationship of anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism. Issue #58 was devoted to symposium documents from the joint JSPS/RESPONSE symposium on "Multiculturalism, Jews and the Campus."

Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ)

Organized in 1964 and operated by Executive Director Jacob Birnbaum and National Coordinator Glenn Richter, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry was at the forefront of organizations pressuring the Soviet Union to allow Jewish 'refuseniks' to immigrate to Israel. (The term 'refusenik' was applied to those Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel. The Soviet government continuously refused, delayed, or denied their requests, hence the term.) SSSJ's purpose was "to aid Russian Jews by publicizing their plight, helping them learn of their Jewish heritage, aiding their efforts to emigrate, and keeping the Jews of North America informed and conscious of the ever-changing condition of the Soviet Jewish situation." SSSJ served a dual purpose: educating the public on the plight of Soviet Jews and calling to action those people, in particular the Jewish Diaspora in North America but other religious and political affiliations as well, to lobby world governments and persuade the Soviet Union to alter its policy towards its Jews. On the whole, SSSJ was a prime mover and shaker in this regard.

SSSJ utilized a system of grassroots activism and field workers to mobilize both its non-student donor base and its high school and college campus student chapters. SSSJ began a 'twinning' program, connecting American and Russian Jews in pen pal situations.8 As part of the twinning program American students visited their Soviet counterparts, while the "Project Eyewitness" program offered American visitors the opportunity of taping interviews with the young Russians for viewing outside of the Soviet Union. SSSJ organized hundreds of demonstrations, as well as organized marathons, bike- and walk-a-thons, mailed background materials and translations to Congress and the press, and promoted numerous innovative programs highlighting different aspects of Jewish captivity in the Soviet Union. The group also testified before Congress concerning the lack of emigration for Romanian Jews to Israel. SSSJ initiated yearly separate lobby trips to Congress for college and high school students.

As the Soviet Union fell and Russia re-emerged, rules on Jewish emigration were relaxed and the focus of SSSJ moved from political action to the successful absorption of Russian Jews into Israeli society. Student volunteers assisted in language tutoring and setting up new households, among other projects. SSSJ eventually left the APPEAL as its mandate changed, leaving behind a large gap in the APPEAL constituency that the APPEAL found difficult to replace.9

Yavneh: Religious Students Association (YAVNEH)

YAVNEH, the National Religious Students Association, was organized in 1960 'to ensure continuation of traditional Jewish life and education on campuses.' Participants in YAVNEH advocated for religious freedoms and rights, including kosher campus kitchens and test schedule coordination with Jewish holidays. YAVNEH had a staff of an executive director and secretary, and were governed by an Advisory Board and National Executive Board. With its prime focus being the religious Jewish student body, YAVNEH was the most conservative Constituent of the APPEAL. Some of its activities included an annual national convention, professional and leadership seminars, conferences, Shabbat programming, Zionist-related work, and Holocaust, Israel and Western Europe tours. Chapters were established at various campuses, each holding their own activities in addition to the nationally organized events conducted by the central office. YAVNEH also published the Kol Yavneh newspaper, but did not join the publication under the auspices of the JSPS. Tensions concerning fiscal matters arose between YAVNEH and the APPEAL, prompting YAVNEH to withdraw in January 1978. Discussions of YAVNEH rejoining the APPEAL surfaced from time to time, but never materialized.

Yugntruf: Youth for Yiddish (YUGNTRUF)

The goal of YUNGTRUF ("call to youth"), organized in 1964, was promoting the Yiddish language as a "living, vibrant part of the life of Jewish students and young adults." Transcending differences in political and religious spheres, the organization's single, committed goal was the preservation and perpetuation of Yiddish as part of the culture of the Jewish community. The New York central office coordinated activities throughout North America while YUNGTRUF members in major U.S. cities, and 25 countries, led Yiddish cultural groups. Whenever possible, fieldworkers were hired to travel around North America organizing activities such as songfests, literary discussion groups, creative writing sessions and outings. A spring annual conference was held for members and summer country study retreats (Viddish-vokhs) were conducted in the Berkshire Mountains for total Yiddish immersion. YUGNTRUF regularly participated in world Yiddish conferences and the World Council for Yiddish.

Student "graduates" of YUGNTRUF conducted accredited and informal Yiddish courses on campuses, and in 1981, a Yiddish nursery school was established. YUGNTRUF sold "Yiddish" T-shirts, buttons ("Speak Yiddish With Me"), a collection of songs written and performed by young people entitled "Vaserl," and The Yiddish Source Finder, a guide of Yiddish activities, resources and textbooks. Also published was an extensive directory of Yiddish courses throughout the world entitled Yiddish in the Classroom: An International Directory. YUNGTRUF sponsored creative workshops in Yiddish, and in 1988 published a collection of works in Yiddish entitled Vidervuks ("Regrowth"): A New Generation of Yiddish Writers.

The journal Yugntruf: A Yiddish Student Quarterly, with its fiction and non-fiction articles and edited by young adults and students, had a circulation of over 2000. Article topics varied from creative writing to works on Israel-Diaspora relations, the Holocaust, Yiddish theatre, Soviet Jewry, Jewish identity, and a section for beginning students of Yiddish. One column (Afn Ekran, "On the screen"), begun in 1987 and developing out of Spring conference discussions, focused on computers and programs written in or compatible with the Yiddish language, including software reviews, and suggested vocabulary for technological and computer science terms in Yiddish. YUNGTRUF also compiled and published "Political Terminology" lists, with words in English, Yiddish and transliterated Yiddish for words such as 'abortion', 'grass-roots', 'homeless' and 'House of Representatives.'

Footnotes

  1. 1. Triebwasser, Marc. "The Crisis in Jewish Youth Leadership." News and Views, 1972, pgs. 12-13. Records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, I-338, Box 9/Folder 6, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  2. 2. Levine, Hillel. "To Share a Vision." Remarks presented at the General Luncheon Session, 38th General Assembly, Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds. Records of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, I-69, Box 400/Folder 12, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  3. 3. Ibid.
  4. 4. Zacks, Gordon. "Young Leadership Looks at the Future of the Jewish Community." Luncheon Session Address, 38th Annual General Assembly, November 13, 1969. Records of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, I-69, Box 400/Folder 12, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  5. 5. Draft letter to Neil Norry, undated. Records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, I-338, Box 70/Folder 10, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  6. 6. "What is Network: The History and Activities of the North American Jewish Students' Network,"Records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, I-338, Box 43/Folder 9, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  7. 7. Constituent allocation reports, Records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, I-338, Box 35/Folders 7-12, Collection of the American Jewish Historical Society, Newton Centre, MA, and New York, NY.
  8. 8. Susan Dessel, NAJSA Executive Director, participated in this endeavor on behalf of the APPEAL. See Box 25, Folder 12 and Box 26, Folder 6, for correspondence between Dessel and the Partispayan and Reinberg Families. See also Box 64, Folder 3 for the UJA Women's Committee on Russian Women trip to the Soviet Union for comments from Dessel on meeting women refuseniks.
  9. 9. Yeshiva University holds the primary Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry collection. AJHS, however, holds the Records of the New England Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (located in Newton Centre, MA), as well as the Records of the National Conference for Soviet Jewry.

Constituent Brief Histories

Information for this section is taken from yearly presentation materials written by the APPEAL and its Constituents for review by the Federations. Allocation presentations may be found in Series III: Constituents, Subseries 1: General Records.

Bayit Project

The Bayit (house or home) Project, was a collection of communal houses for campus activists in Israel and North America, sponsored in part, though unaffiliated with, the Progressive Zionist Caucus. The project was established in 1982, with headquarters located in Los Angeles serving as a central office for 'disseminating programmatic resources and financial support' to the individual houses under the program. The APPEAL provided funding for programmatic events sponsored by the project and not for the upkeep or maintenance of properties. The first allocation presented to the Project from the NAJSA was advanced to them, as the Governing Board had not decided their official allocation amount at the time of joining the APPEAL. When the project became a Constituent in November 1987, there were 23 houses or batim established in eight states. By 1993, additional houses were established in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beer Sheva, Israel, UC Berkeley in California and the University of Pittsburgh. Students living in the bayits performed weekly community and Jewish student outreach activities and service projects. The program produced the newsletters Kidma and the Bayit Bulletin. The Bayit Project was affiliated with the Bayit Foundation and Project Orchim ("hospitality").

Lights in Action (LIA)

Lights in Action developed out of Columbia University by Ze'ev Maghen in 1991, after students protesting against an anti-Semitic speech spurred him to write an article in promotion of Judaism. Among the co-founders of LIA were students from other colleges, such as Dasee Berkowitz and Sasha Levin from Bernard College and Rivky Shuchatovitz from Stern College, Yeshiva University. LIA was dedicated to promoting Jewish identity and Zionist commitment among college-aged Jews. The name derives from a theme ("hundreds of lights going into action") developed for a celebration of Jewish identity in December 1991 at Washington Square Park in New York City. From this celebration, LIA created and distributed mailings on Jewish/Zionist identity, developed Sabbath programming (Shabbat Leumit) based on the WUJS model of worldwide Shabbat, and distributed colorful, well-produced posters, calendars and Shabbat cards that stressed the positive experiences of Jewish culture and worship. Well-organized and enthusiastic, LIA distributed and developed materials to over 175 campuses across the US and Canada, developing seminars in conjunction with Hillel and the Aleph Society, and becoming a delegate member of the World Union of Jewish Students. The American Jewish Historical Society holds the currently unprocessed Records of Lights in Action, 1991-2001

Jewish Student Press Service (JSPS)

The Jewish Student Press Service was organized in 1970 and continues to serve the American Jewish student community. The Service was established by NETWORK to act as a clearinghouse for Jewish student and young adult publications for worldwide distribution with technical and editorial services provided. JSPS became independent of NETWORK in February 1971, thereby meeting the criteria of the APPEAL for membership.

JSPS staff consisted of an editor/administrator who managed the everyday organization of the JSPS offices. The managing editor also edited a monthly packet of feature articles and eventually New Voices , which began publication in 1991. Other staff included a part-time secretary, two field workers and an Israel bureau editor. JSPS sponsored conferences including the National Editors Conference, New York, West Coast and Israel Editors Conferences and in partnership with the World Zionist Organization, the Do the Right Thing Journalism Conference. JSPS co-sponsored several symposiums with RESPONSE, including a conference on "Multiculturalism, Jews and the Campus" in 1991.

North American Jewish Students Network (NETWORK)

NETWORK provided the impetus for the birth of the APPEAL and was considered the most 'sellable' of the NAJSA groups. NETWORK was student-created, student-run and involved all the politically, religiously and geographically disparate elements of the Jewish student community. In May 1969, the World Union of Jewish Students, a London-based organization, gathered 150 Jewish student leaders together in Brewster, NY to discuss issues concerning Jewish youth in the U.S. and Canada. The two main issues the Brewster conference focused on were the resurgence of interest in issues of Judaism in young people after the end of the Six Day War and strategies for organizing a Jewish student movement. A result of that meeting was the formation of NETWORK as a communications link and resource center to disseminate a wide range of information to concerned Jewish young people across the broad spectrum of North American Judaism.

NETWORK formed a central communications link between diverse groups of Jewish youth while also linking U.S. and Canadian students. Advice and help in developing student programming was disseminated through a resource center, linking students and student groups to speakers, films, educational resources, program ideas and institutional contacts. NETWORK provided encouragement for student-initiated and directed projects while stimulating "Jewish activists to reach out to other unaffiliated, uninvolved Jewish students." Finally, NETWORK served as a common forum for Jewish students, a place where the gamut of Jewish student movements from counter-culture radicals to Chassidics could talk about and act on priorities of concern as well as reach out to inactive young Jews.

NETWORK published a newspaper and The Guide to Jewish Student Groups, a compendium of Jewish student groups throughout North America. NETWORK sponsored annual conventions including a yearly conference, the New York Jewish Leaders Conference, Pan American Jewish Students Conference and the Israel Task Force. NETWORK sponsored an Israel Awareness Week (held in November), created a Yom Kippur War Israel News Hotline, held forums and conferences on Jewish women, pioneered the New Jewish Media Project, which sponsored Jewish film festivals and published a catalog of Jewish film and television; sponsored the Chavurots communal Jewish housing program, and helped to create the Jewish Arts and Crafts Community, a collective of Jewish artists and formed the Jewish Student Press Service. NETWORK also initiated the APPEAL by gathering the six original constituents under one fundraising arm.6

While NETWORK was the forerunner of NAJSA's Constituents, the relationship eventually was strained to the point of breaking. NETWORK withdrew from the APPEAL in 1978, rejoined a few years later, and withdrew again in March 1985. The first withdrawal was instigated when the American Zionist Youth Foundation (AZYF) prompted a takeover of NETWORK, thereby invalidating NAJSA's by-laws that all Constituents were to remain free from parent organizations. The second withdrawal began in Fall 1981 when NETWORK approached the Federations on their own for funding. NETWORK stated the funds were for endowments and claimed that the NAJSA failed to secure appropriate funding from the Federations. NETWORK decided afterward to abide by the APPEAL By-laws, but strain between the two organizations increased and NETWORK withdrew permanently in March 1985.

Progressive Zionist Caucus (PZC)

The Progressive Zionist Caucus joined the APPEAL shortly after NETWORK departed, becoming an official Constituent on February 12, 1987. Founded in 1982, the PZC was the only Jewish campus organization that specifically supported the efforts of the Israeli peace movement. According to NAJSA presentation reports, PZC, "Because of its alternative Zionist approach…appeals to politically sensitive students whose concerns are not always addressed by other Jewish campus groups... PZC provides these students with a Zionist framework to support Israel which examines certain policies of the Israeli government while working for social and political change."7

PZC chapters were located on 50 North American campuses and published the La'Inyan (To The Point) annual journal and Makor, sourcebooks providing synopses on progressive Zionist ideology and offering suggestions to progressive Zionist campus activists. The Caucus sponsored diverse campus events including speakers, films, seminars, Seders, and Arab-Jewish dialogue groups. Prominent peace activists and politicians from North America and Israel regularly spoke on campuses through PZC. PZC also sponsored seminars on Aliyah ("going up" or moving to Israel) and leadership, participated in the Spitzer Forums on Public Policy, Hillel's National Leadership Conference and in General Assemblies.

Response: A Contemporary Jewish Review (RESPONSE)

RESPONSE termed itself a 'Contemporary Jewish Review' due to its publication of articles written by student thinkers as a 'vehicle for serious political and social commentary,' providing a forum for young writers, essayists, literary critics, artists, poets and short story writers. Begun in 1967 at Columbia University by undergraduate students, RESPONSE originally began as a quarterly, but due to monetary constraints, eventually published three journals per year, one of which appeared as a double issue. RESPONSE was an editorially independent student publication, using volunteer writers and editors. The Editorial Board of RESPONSE met on a monthly basis to discuss manuscripts while a part-time, paid sales manager conducted the administrative work of the journal. RESPONSE relied almost exclusively on the monies supplied to it by the NAJSA and subscribers. The journal distributed 1000 free copies to campuses, and approximately 2000 subscribers included libraries, synagogues and private subscribers worldwide.

Issues of Response covered a wide range of topics, sometimes based on a theme. Issues focused on new fiction by American Jews, intermarriage, family life, and feminist topics; the political links of homosexuals and Jews, books reviews, the Holocaust, and the relationship of anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism. Issue #58 was devoted to symposium documents from the joint JSPS/RESPONSE symposium on "Multiculturalism, Jews and the Campus."

Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ)

Organized in 1964 and operated by Executive Director Jacob Birnbaum and National Coordinator Glenn Richter, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry was at the forefront of organizations pressuring the Soviet Union to allow Jewish 'refuseniks' to immigrate to Israel. (The term 'refusenik' was applied to those Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate from the Soviet Union to Israel. The Soviet government continuously refused, delayed, or denied their requests, hence the term.) SSSJ's purpose was "to aid Russian Jews by publicizing their plight, helping them learn of their Jewish heritage, aiding their efforts to emigrate, and keeping the Jews of North America informed and conscious of the ever-changing condition of the Soviet Jewish situation." SSSJ served a dual purpose: educating the public on the plight of Soviet Jews and calling to action those people, in particular the Jewish Diaspora in North America but other religious and political affiliations as well, to lobby world governments and persuade the Soviet Union to alter its policy towards its Jews. On the whole, SSSJ was a prime mover and shaker in this regard.

SSSJ utilized a system of grassroots activism and field workers to mobilize both its non-student donor base and its high school and college campus student chapters. SSSJ began a 'twinning' program, connecting American and Russian Jews in pen pal situations.8 As part of the twinning program American students visited their Soviet counterparts, while the "Project Eyewitness" program offered American visitors the opportunity of taping interviews with the young Russians for viewing outside of the Soviet Union. SSSJ organized hundreds of demonstrations, as well as organized marathons, bike- and walk-a-thons, mailed background materials and translations to Congress and the press, and promoted numerous innovative programs highlighting different aspects of Jewish captivity in the Soviet Union. The group also testified before Congress concerning the lack of emigration for Romanian Jews to Israel. SSSJ initiated yearly separate lobby trips to Congress for college and high school students.

As the Soviet Union fell and Russia re-emerged, rules on Jewish emigration were relaxed and the focus of SSSJ moved from political action to the successful absorption of Russian Jews into Israeli society. Student volunteers assisted in language tutoring and setting up new households, among other projects. SSSJ eventually left the APPEAL as its mandate changed, leaving behind a large gap in the APPEAL constituency that the APPEAL found difficult to replace.9

Yavneh: Religious Students Association (YAVNEH)

YAVNEH, the National Religious Students Association, was organized in 1960 'to ensure continuation of traditional Jewish life and education on campuses.' Participants in YAVNEH advocated for religious freedoms and rights, including kosher campus kitchens and test schedule coordination with Jewish holidays. YAVNEH had a staff of an executive director and secretary, and were governed by an Advisory Board and National Executive Board. With its prime focus being the religious Jewish student body, YAVNEH was the most conservative Constituent of the APPEAL. Some of its activities included an annual national convention, professional and leadership seminars, conferences, Shabbat programming, Zionist-related work, and Holocaust, Israel and Western Europe tours. Chapters were established at various campuses, each holding their own activities in addition to the nationally organized events conducted by the central office. YAVNEH also published the Kol Yavneh newspaper, but did not join the publication under the auspices of the JSPS. Tensions concerning fiscal matters arose between YAVNEH and the APPEAL, prompting YAVNEH to withdraw in January 1978. Discussions of YAVNEH rejoining the APPEAL surfaced from time to time, but never materialized.

Yugntruf: Youth for Yiddish (YUGNTRUF)

The goal of YUNGTRUF ("call to youth"), organized in 1964, was promoting the Yiddish language as a "living, vibrant part of the life of Jewish students and young adults." Transcending differences in political and religious spheres, the organization's single, committed goal was the preservation and perpetuation of Yiddish as part of the culture of the Jewish community. The New York central office coordinated activities throughout North America while YUNGTRUF members in major U.S. cities, and 25 countries, led Yiddish cultural groups. Whenever possible, fieldworkers were hired to travel around North America organizing activities such as songfests, literary discussion groups, creative writing sessions and outings. A spring annual conference was held for members and summer country study retreats (Viddish-vokhs) were conducted in the Berkshire Mountains for total Yiddish immersion. YUGNTRUF regularly participated in world Yiddish conferences and the World Council for Yiddish.

Student "graduates" of YUGNTRUF conducted accredited and informal Yiddish courses on campuses, and in 1981, a Yiddish nursery school was established. YUGNTRUF sold "Yiddish" T-shirts, buttons ("Speak Yiddish With Me"), a collection of songs written and performed by young people entitled "Vaserl," and The Yiddish Source Finder, a guide of Yiddish activities, resources and textbooks. Also published was an extensive directory of Yiddish courses throughout the world entitled Yiddish in the Classroom: An International Directory. YUNGTRUF sponsored creative workshops in Yiddish, and in 1988 published a collection of works in Yiddish entitled Vidervuks ("Regrowth"): A New Generation of Yiddish Writers.

The journal Yugntruf: A Yiddish Student Quarterly, with its fiction and non-fiction articles and edited by young adults and students, had a circulation of over 2000. Article topics varied from creative writing to works on Israel-Diaspora relations, the Holocaust, Yiddish theatre, Soviet Jewry, Jewish identity, and a section for beginning students of Yiddish. One column (Afn Ekran, "On the screen"), begun in 1987 and developing out of Spring conference discussions, focused on computers and programs written in or compatible with the Yiddish language, including software reviews, and suggested vocabulary for technological and computer science terms in Yiddish. YUNGTRUF also compiled and published "Political Terminology" lists, with words in English, Yiddish and transliterated Yiddish for words such as 'abortion', 'grass-roots', 'homeless' and 'House of Representatives.'

Extent

58.9 Linear Feet (I-338)

4.13 Linear Feet (I-338A)

Abstract

The records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal (NAJSA or APPEAL) contains documents on two levels of concern: those documents dealing with the NAJSA as a student-run organization promoting Jewish identity among college-aged youth; and those documents dealing with the APPEAL as a fundraising organization for several well-known student constituent organizations. The Constituents were: the Jewish Student Press Service, Lights in Action, the North American Jewish Students Network, the Progressive Zionist Caucus, Response: A Contemporary Jewish Review, Yavneh Religious Students Organization, and Yugntruf Youth for Yiddish. Documents include correspondence, financial records, minutes, press releases, information on grants awarded to student organizations for programming and publishing, student journals and newspapers, photographs, and ephemera.

Arrangement

The series is arranged according to the original filing system of the records of the NAJSA, though in some cases, series have been artificially constructed by rearranging yearly records into more coherent categories, particularly in the case of organizational financial records, Constituent, and Beneficiary Grant files. Publications, ephemera, posters, photographs, and video and audio tape series have been created from the original series by pulling certain publications, printed matter, posters, and ephemera (buttons, t-shirts, etc.) from folders for preservation purposes and to highlight these items in conjunction with the Jewish student movement. Each series contains arrangement notes relevant to the particular series below.

The collection is organized into ten series as follows:
  1. Series I: Board of Trustees, Governing Board, Friends and Rabbis, undated, 1971-1995
  2. Subseries 1: Board of Trustees, undated, 1971-1995
  3. Subseries 2: Governing Board, undated, 1971-1973, 1975-1995
  4. Subseries 3: Friends, undated, 1971-1992
  5. Subseries 4: Rabbis, undated, 1971-1991
  6. Series II: Organizational Records, undated, 1971-1996
  7. Subseries 1: General Records, 1970-1996
  8. Subseries 2: Financial Records, 1971-1995
  9. Series III: Constituent Files, undated, 1962, 1964-1995
  10. Subseries 1: General Records, undated, 1968, 1970-1995
  11. Subseries 2: Jewish Students Press Service (JSPS), undated, 1971-1995
  12. Subseries 3: North American Jewish Students' Network (NETWORK), undated, 1971-1986, 1989
  13. Subseries 4: Progressive Zionist Caucus (PZC), undated, 1986-1995
  14. Subseries 5: Response: A Contemporary Jewish Review (Jewish Educational Services, Inc.) (RESPONSE), undated, 1970-1995
  15. Subseries 6: Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (with the Center for Russian Jewry) (SSSJ), undated, 1967, 1971-1991
  16. Subseries 7: Yavneh Religious Students Organization (YAVNEH), undated, 1962, 1964, 1971-1981
  17. Subseries 8: Yugntruf Youth for Yiddish (YUGNTRUF), undated, 1965-1966, 1971-1995
  18. Series IV: Beneficiary Grants, undated, 1971-1995
  19. Subseries 1: General Records, undated, 1971-1995
  20. Subseries 2: Grants Made by Program Year, 1971-1995
  21. Series V: Federations, undated, 1971-1995
  22. Subseries 1: Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), undated, 1971-1995
  23. Subseries 2: General Assembly (GA), 1972-1994
  24. Subseries 3: Large City Budgeting Conference (LCBC), undated, 1971-1995
  25. Subseries 4: United Jewish Appeal (UJA), 1971-1980, 1988, 1990-1994
  26. Subseries 5: United States Cities and Canada, undated, 1971-1995
  27. Series VI: Fundraising, undated, 1972-[1996]
  28. Series VII: Publications and Printed Matter, undated, 1969, 1971-1995
  29. Subseries 1: Constituents: Journals, Newsletters, Newspapers and Printed Matter, undated, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976-1978, 1984, 1986-1993
  30. Subseries 2: Beneficiaries: Journals, Newsletters, Newspapers and Printed Matter, undated, 1969, 1973-1995
  31. Subseries 3: Others: Journals, Newsletters, Newspapers and Printed Matter, undated, 1971-1995
  32. Series VIII: Ephemera and Posters, undated, 1971-1995
  33. Subseries 1: Ephemera, undated, 1973-1995
  34. Subseries 2: Posters, undated, 1973-1994
  35. Series IX: Photographs, undated, 1972-1995
  36. Series X: Video and Audio Tapes, undated, 1990s

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Provenance

The Records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society by Brenda Gervertz, Executive Director of the organization from 1989-1995. Additional materials from various collections were added to expand partial runs of periodicals in the original collection.

Related Material

Related Material The North American Jewish Students Appeal Records is one individual collection within the Counter Culture collections located at the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS). Other counter culture collections at AJHS include the Arthur Ocean Waskow Papers (P-152), Leonard Fein Papers (P-582), Shira Eve Epstein Papers (P-776), Riv-Ellen Prell Papers (P-795), Ruth Abusch-Magder Papers (P-841), Virginia Levitt Snitow Papers (P-876), Goldie Milgram Papers (P-876), Jack Jacobs Papers (P-1020), Gerald Serotta Papers (P-1023), Jack Nusan Porter Papers (P-1024), Arthur J. Lelyveld Papers (P-1030), Jews for Urban Justice (Washington, D.C.) Records (I-159), Jewish Peace Fellowship Records (I-189), Jewish Student Press Service Records (I-248), Breira Records (I-250), American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism (New York, New York) Records (I-326), Jewish Labor Committee Records (I-377), New Jewish Agenda Records (I-393), Vermont Chapter of the New Jewish Agenda Records (I-449), Jewish Counter Culture Collection (I-504), Trees and Life for Vietnam Records (I-542), Lights in Action Records (I-560), Brit Tzedek v'Shalom/Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace Records (I-587), and portions of the Jewish Student Organizations Collection (I-61).

Other collections related include I-59, CJF Oral Histories, Charles Zibbel; I-69, Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds; I-181, National Conference on Soviet Jewry; and I-237, New England Struggle for Soviet Jewry (located in Newton Centre, MA).
Title
Guide to the Records of the North American Jewish Students Appeal, undated, 1962, 1964-1996 (bulk 1971-1995) I-338 and I-338A
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Tanya Elder
Date
© 2012
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from NAJSA02.xml

Revision Statements

  • February 28, 2005.: Converted to EAD 2002. Revised as NAJSA1.xml by Tanya Elder. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.
  • June 7, 2006.: Revised biographical history in accordance with the finding aid by Marvin Rusinek.
  • August 2012.: Additional periodical publications added to extend runs of titles already in the collection by Christine McEvilly.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States