Moving Forward with Renewed Koah: Putting Student Leadership to the Test

by Conservative Jewish College Students of America

The students of KOACH were shocked and dismayed by the news that the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) has eliminated the KOACH/College Outreach program. A student fueled campaign to keep KOACH running led to one last successful year; including the signature KOACH Kallah shabbaton. For more than two decades, KOACH-on-Campus was the sole organization committed to providing a Conservative Jewish experience on North American college campuses. In its final year, KOACH reached students on over 50 campuses. While KOACH (hebrew for strength) might only have a few days left as an organization the students involved will certainly maintain their koach.

With the declining numbers of self identified Conservative Jews, it is unfortunate to see that USCJ will no longer serve the key 18-22 year old demographic. This demographic with a love of Torah, devotion to social justice, commitment to Israel and community is the future of Judaism. These core values, which the students of KOACH hold dear, are the pillars of progressive Judaism. Their thirst for knowledge and quest for meaning will, inevitably, be fostered by other organizations. Without KOACH, progressive Jewish college students will be left scattered in unstructured egalitarian cliques or sacrificing egalitarianism for the embrace of on campus Orthodox communities.

Campuses, whether previously KOACH affiliation or not, are strongly encouraged to host regional Shabbtonim and maintain existing Conservative/Traditional-Egalitarian communities. With the goal to fill the 2013-2014 academic year with powerful Torah learning, a traditional-egalitarian atmosphere and community, the student leadership of KOACH has decided to form an independent network of college campuses, in order to stave off the void left without the previous organizational structure.

Using the established communities as a jumping off point, this new Conservative/ Traditional-Egalitarian Jewish campus network will be working to develop a student run national shabbaton. Unlike KOACH’s signature annual Kallah shabbaton, a new model will be used where students will host other students and a university’s Jewish life organization will help to coordinate. A number of universities and colleges in the Northeast have already expressed interest in hosting.

USCJ’s announcement to shut down KOACH is certainly a troubling revelation; even without KOACH a commitment to promote the growth of thoughtful Jewish adults, who value both tradition and egalitarianism, is paramount.