Collection ID: I-338 and I-338A

Collection context


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.
The collection is in English , Hebrew , and Yiddish .


Scope and Content:

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.

Biographical / Historical:

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 75thAnniversary 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:

  • "At the outset, I must make one point clear. I am not part of this convention; neither was I nor any young person asked to speak at this time. I stand here with a mandate from my friends hoping that what I say expresses you directly. Knowing that we are given this opportunity only through threats of a disruption, you might dismiss us as children of our times, bored with the battle of the campus and looking for a new stage upon which to play our childish pranks of doubtful morality.2

Rabbi Levine then offered a definition of the students - how they viewed themselves in the community of American Jews:

  • "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

Gordon Zacks, the 1969 Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal's (UJA) Young Leadership Cabinet (YLC) and former Chair of the CJFWF Leadership Development Committee, addressed the delegates in a regularly scheduled meeting of the Luncheon Session of the Assembly. Zacks, in a forum entitled "Young Leadership Looks at the Future of the Jewish Community" urged the Assembly to pass a resolution calling for the creation of a body with a six-prong plan addressing certain issues facing the Jewish community within a 12-month period. This body, proposed as the "Foundation for Jewish Identity", would undertake, develop and provide seed money to harvest "the best Jewish brainpower in support of those kinds of activities which will produce a multiplier effect on creative Jewish living and identity." One of the six specific areas in which Mr. Zacks urged plan development was in presenting a "bold new activities-oriented approach to reach and involve university students."4(Zacks and Neil Norry (the Special Promotions Chairperson of the national UJA office), working on the Federation side, became two of the prime initiators and backers of the APPEAL, providing moral, organizational and financial support to NETWORK in establishing the groundwork for the APPEAL.)

After the General Assembly, the students were unorganized and unincorporated, had no budget, or central strategy for receiving or allocating funds they might receive from the Federations. The student leaders met at a December 1969 UJA meeting, but were unable to press their efforts to raise funds from the Federations until some semblance of organization occurred. In June of 1971, NETWORK, using its connections through the WUJS, organized meetings with the leaders of the six original Constituents to discuss their varying financial crises and how to organize and present a united fundraising plan to the CJFWF. Those initial Constituents, the Jewish Student Press Service (organized 1970), Response (organized 1967), NETWORK (1969), the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (1964), Yavneh (1965) and Yugntruf: Youth for Yiddish (1965) banded together to form the North American Jewish Students Appeal.5

The thrust of this work was primarily fundraising and allocating to the Constituent organizations, of which, over time, there were eight not including a few small 'satellite' Constituents. NETWORK and YAVNEH eventually left the APPEAL, with the Progressive Zionist Caucus (PZC, organized 1987) and Lights in Action (LIA, organized 1992) taking their places. In addition to the allocating of funds and fundraising for the Constituent organizations, the APPEAL administered under its own name a Beneficiary Grants program. The grants, ranging from $50 to $500, were awarded primarily to campus student organizations requiring funding for campus programming or publications promoting Jewish identity and news among students.

The structure of the APPEAL included an Executive Director and executive assistant, with occasional field workers and interns. The Executive Director ran the everyday operations of the APPEAL, including allocations distribution, compiling Constituent presentations, writing grants, fundraising, and advertising the APPEAL. The Executive Directors of the APPEAL included Robert Goldman, Edward (Avi) Lyons, Mark Mishan, Steven Cohen, Susan Dessel, Roberta Shiffman and Brenda Gervetz.

The advisors of the APPEAL consisted of a Board of Trustees and a Governing Board. Friends of the Students, or Friends, were named for those people who donated money but had no say in the workings of the APPEAL. Rabbis and congregations were regularly called upon for donations and spiritual support.

Trustees acted as an advisory board to the APPEAL, and lobbied their local and national Federations to fund the APPEAL. As an advisory board, Trustees had no say in the internal workings of the Constituents, or the APPEAL allocation formula. Money received from the Federations was divided between the Constituents and the Beneficiary Grants program according to an allocation formula decided by the Constituents and Governing Board. Trustees acted as a buffer between the Federations and the NAJSA students and were arbiters of any internal disputes between the NAJSA and Constituents. The collective Trustee membership consisted of community members and delegates from the Governing Board, who were primarily students at the time of their Trusteeship. These students served as both Trustees and Governing Board members, though once they left the Governing Board for reasons of graduation or resignation they had the option of remaining Trustees.

The majority of the Trustees were older men and women who had worked within the Jewish community for many years, and knew the finer points of approaching the Federations. The APPEAL strove to develop and maintain ties with at least one vocal, well-placed Trustee that held the ear of local Federations. The Trustees were particularly useful during each Federation's allocation evaluation time, based on the fiscal year. After the NAJSA submitted their allocation applications to a Federation, the local Trustee would follow-up, making phone calls, visiting or conducting presentations to the Federation as possible or advisable. The Trustees were vital in initiating new Federations into giving to the APPEAL, encouraging Federations to increase an already confirmed allocation or maintaining an allocation over time.

The Trustees did not hold regularly scheduled meetings. Meetings of the Trustees were attempted during quarterly CJF sessions, but attendance was relatively poor as Trustees were more willing to travel to the larger General Assembly conferences than quarterly meetings. Trustees also donated to the APPEAL with their own Tzedakah, or charitable contribution. Current Trustees recruited new Trustees, with Trustees Michael and Natalie Pelavin and Steven Schwarz being the most active in this regard. Gordon Zacks encouraged the actor Theodore Bikel (The African Queen,My Fair Lady,The Defiant Ones,Victory at Entebbe) to become a Trustee. Trustee Chairpersons included Zacks, Michael Pelavin, Jacqueline Levine, Steven Schwarz, Alan H. Molod, Suzanne Perelman, Magda Leuchter-Shenberg, and Gerald Flanzbaum.

The Governing Board consisted of seven constituent delegates, and six at-large delegates. The Constituents selected delegates and previous Board members, Trustees, and Constituents nominated at-large delegates. At-large delegates were students under the age of 30 years at the time of election and served one-year terms; staff from the APPEAL could be appointed as non-voting delegates. The Governing Board met during the school year from September to June on a monthly basis to review each Constituent's programming and prepare for Spring budgeting and the Fall allocation formula vote. The Governing Board reviewed Beneficiary Grants proposals, recommending or denying funding for each grant proposed. The Governing Board elected a President and an Executive Committee, which included the President, Executive Director and three Board members. In addition to the Executive Committee, the Board elected a Steering, Allocations and Internal Review Committees.

In the structure of the Federation system, the APPEAL presented budget materials and financial reports, along with Constituent presentations, to the Large City Budgeting Conference (LCBC), an independent division of the CJFWF representing the larger, local Federations according to population size. The CJFWF based Federation divisions on local population sizes by large, intermediate and small budgeting councils representing local cities and towns. The LCBC would then certify to the Federations, a recommended target budget to be allocated from the local Federations to the APPEAL. The CJFWF/LCBC issued a 'Budget Digest,' containing the combined report of the CJFWF and the APPEAL, including a description of the activities of the APPEAL and Constituents, a brief history and scope of the organization, along with a report on the APPEAL's financial standing, based on financial documentation presented by the APPEAL. For instance, based on the APPEAL's presentation, its financial documentation and plans for the following fiscal year, the LCBC would certify the APPEAL's allocation from Federation funds at $120,000. (The APPEAL also received certification from the Intermediate and Small Cities Budgeting Conferences.) After certification, the Federations viewed the APPEAL as a legitimate allocation entity. Based on the local Federation budget, an allocation was then made to the APPEAL, spread throughout the fiscal year or in one lump sum. The APPEAL attended the annual GA, mingling with Federation representatives on the national and local levels, attending forums on student-related issues and to present their budgets for certification. The GA was held in a variety of host cities designated by the number of the annual event. The CJFWF later became the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF) and then merged with the United Israel Appeal (UIA) and the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) to form the United Jewish Communities (UJC).

The APPEAL was active on several CJF committees, including the College Youth and Faculty Committee, the Leadership Development Committee, the Task Force on Services to Jewish University Students, and the Women's Committee on Russian Women. The NAJSA served on the United Jewish Appeal's Student Advisory Committee and the Young Leadership Cabinet. During the 1970s, the APPEAL attempted to merge with the Joint Cultural Appeal (JCA), a fundraising entity for several organizations including the American Jewish Historical Society, Histadruth Ivrith of America, the Leo Baeck Institute, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

The APPEAL disbanded in June 1995 due to the shrinking of Federation funds, the changing structure of the CJF and tensions between the APPEAL and Hillel. As money disappeared from the Federations, the trickle down effect made it difficult for the Federations to justify funding two National student organizations.

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 Voicesresigned 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 newslettersKidmaand theBayit 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 eventuallyNew 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 andThe 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 theLa'Inyan(To The Point) annual journal andMakor, 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 ofResponsecovered 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 Glenn Richter and Jason Birnbaum, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry was at the forefront of organizations lobbying 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.8As 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 marathons, bike, and walkathons, 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.

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 theKol Yavnehnewspaper, 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 entitledYiddish in the Classroom: An International Directory. YUNGTRUF sponsored creative workshops in Yiddish, and in 1988 published a collection of works in Yiddish entitledVidervuks ("Regrowth"): A New Generation of Yiddish Writers.

The journalYugntruf: 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.'

  • 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. 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. Ibid.
  • 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. 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."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.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.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.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.

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:

  • Series I: Board of Trustees, Governing Board, Friends and Rabbis, undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 1: Board of Trustees, undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 2: Governing Board, undated, 1971-1973, 1975-1995
    • Subseries 3: Friends, undated, 1971-1992
    • Subseries 4: Rabbis, undated, 1971-1991
  • Series II: Organizational Records, undated, 1971-1996
    • Subseries 1: General Records, 1970-1996
    • Subseries 2: Financial Records, 1971-1995
  • Series III: Constituent Files, undated, 1962, 1964-1995
    • Subseries 1: General Records, undated, 1968, 1970-1995
    • Subseries 2: Jewish Students Press Service (JSPS), undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 3: North American Jewish Students' Network (NETWORK), undated, 1971-1986, 1989
    • Subseries 4: Progressive Zionist Caucus (PZC), undated, 1986-1995
    • Subseries 5:Response: A Contemporary Jewish Review(Jewish Educational Services, Inc.) (RESPONSE), undated, 1970-1995
    • Subseries 6: Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (with the Center for Russian Jewry) (SSSJ), undated, 1967, 1971-1991
    • Subseries 7: Yavneh Religious Students Organization (YAVNEH), undated, 1962, 1964, 1971-1981
    • Subseries 8: Yugntruf Youth for Yiddish (YUGNTRUF), undated, 1965-1966, 1971-1995
  • Series IV: Beneficiary Grants, undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 1: General Records, undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 2: Grants Made by Program Year, 1971-1995
  • Series V: Federations, undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 1: Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 2: General Assembly (GA), 1972-1994
    • Subseries 3: Large City Budgeting Conference (LCBC), undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 4: United Jewish Appeal (UJA), 1971-1980, 1988, 1990-1994
    • Subseries 5: United States Cities and Canada, undated, 1971-1995
  • Series VI: Fundraising, undated, 1972-[1996]
  • Series VII: Publications and Printed Matter, undated, 1969, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 1: Constituents: Journals, Newsletters, Newspapers and Printed Matter, undated, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1976-1978, 1984, 1986-1993
    • Subseries 2: Beneficiaries: Journals, Newsletters, Newspapers and Printed Matter, undated, 1969, 1973-1995
    • Subseries 3: Others: Journals, Newsletters, Newspapers and Printed Matter, undated, 1971-1995
  • Series VIII: Ephemera and Posters, undated, 1971-1995
    • Subseries 1: Ephemera, undated, 1973-1995
    • Subseries 2: Posters, undated, 1973-1994
  • Series IX: Photographs, undated, 1972-1995
  • Series X: Video and Audio Tapes, undated, 1990s
  • Collection Addendum I-338A: North American Jewish Students Appeal, undated, 1967-1995


Center for Jewish History
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