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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Your federation money at work? Swarthmore Hillel allows funding for groups that deny Israel's right to exist

Defying Hillel's national rules, the Swarthmore College chapter has decided to allow funding and resources for organizations that deny Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state.
Press release: Swarthmore Hillel is an Open Hillel

Unanimously adopted by Swarthmore Hillel Student Board, December 8, 2013

Whereas Hillel International prohibits partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who (a) denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;

And whereas this policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in Jewish Voice for Peace not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella;

And whereas this policy runs counter to the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai;

And whereas Hillel, while purporting to support all Jewish Campus Life, presents a monolithic face pertaining to Zionism that does not accurately reflect the diverse opinions of young American Jews;

And whereas Hillel’s statement that Israel is a core element of Jewish life and a gateway to Jewish identification for students does not allow space for others who perceive it as irrelevant to their Judaism;

And whereas Hillel International’s Israel guidelines privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome;

And whereas the goals of fostering a diverse community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be met when Hillel International’s guidelines are in place;

Therefore be it resolved that Swarthmore Hillel declares itself to be an Open Hillel; an organization that supports Jewish life in all its forms; an organization that is a religious and cultural group whose purpose is not to advocate for one single political view, but rather to open up space that encourages dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body and the larger community at Swarthmore; an organization that will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines; and an organization that will always strive to be in keeping with the values of open debate and discourse espoused by Rabbi Hillel.

Contact: Joshua Wolfsun Swarthmore Hillel Communications Coordinator wolfj13@gmail.com 413-687-1809
The way to show the hypocrisy of this policy is for a Neturei Karta group to apply for membership and see if they are accepted. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen.

What, if anything, can the national Hillel organization do about this? According to my sources, very little. The Hillel officials claim that the term 'Hillel' is too generic to have ownership. Personally, I don't buy that (Hillel isn't exactly Kleenex or Xerox), but it means that they're unlikely to take any enforcement action to stop the Swarthmore branch from using the Hillel name.

But Hillel's national organization also claims that the Swarthmore Hillel does not receive any funds from Hillel, and that their funding all comes from the Swarthmore Endowment for Jewish Life.

Obviously Swarthmore's Hillel still enjoys many resources from Hillel.

But that doesn't mean that Hillel will act against the Swarthmore chapter. Hillel is simply too afraid to lose any Jewish students over the issue of Israel. And according to my local source, the executive director of the Philadelphia area Hillels is a fire-breathing Kahanist compared to the 'Mr. Inclusive' who will succeed him in a few months. If action is unlikely now, it's less likely later.

Jewish Voice for Peace, which is mentioned in the screed cited above, describes itself as the 'Jewish wing' of the 'Palestinian' solidarity movement. But that doesn't bother Swarthmore's Hillel or much of the rest of the American Jewish community. Multi-culturalism uber alles.

None of this will change until the American Jewish community finds leadership that isn't afraid of its shadow. Of course, to do that, they'd have to have a much stronger Jewish identity than is currently the case. Don't expect that to happen anytime soon.... 

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At 8:04 AM, Blogger Harry Abrams said...

For sure Hillel central will decertify Strathmore and change the locks on the doors if they don't get back in line very quickly. If the leader(s) of this little coup persist in calling themselves an aspect of Hillel, they'll most likely be facing legal action.


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