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Hillel CEO: You Can’t Use Our Name if You Reject Zionism

Hillel's new CEO sets the standard: Hillel's name carries benefits and responsibilities. To acquire the benefits you must accept the responsibilities.
Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International

In a swift, decisive move, Eric Fingerhut, the new president and chief executive officer of Hillel International informed the head of Swarthmore College’s (former) Hillel just who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to making policy decisions. The Swarthmore chapter’s unanimous vote on Sunday, Dec. 8, to reject Hillel guidelines regarding Israel, means it cannot use the name Hillel.

“Let me be very clear – ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances,” Fingerhut wrote, in response to Swarthmore Hillel’s resolution to reject the national Hillel guidelines. The Swarthmore resolution included this: “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.”

The Swarthmore student board’s unanimous decision to reject the national guidelines and instead become part of a movement known as “Open Hillel” is the first such vote at any campus.

The Open Hillel movement rejects any restrictions on speakers or partnerships with groups, including those which, under Hillel’s Israel guidelines, would be barred because they engage in “demonization, delegitimization or applying double standards to Israel,” or support the economic and legal warfare movement known as the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel.

But those in the Open Hillel movement still want to benefit from having the name recognition, the established campus presence and the money available to chapters of the Hillel Foundation. In fact, while the Swarthmore group boasted that all of its funding comes from a Swarthmore endowment, giving it financial independence from the Hillel Foundation, its website suggests that the independence is overstated.

Fingerhut made clear that he rejected any claim that his move restricts freedom of speech or freedom of association.

Hillel recognizes, of course, that “organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice” violate these guidelines may well be welcomed on campus, according to the policies of the particular college or university. The Hillel on campus, however, may not partner with or host such groups or speakers. This is entirely within our discretion as an organization, and we have clearly stated our intention to make these important decisions to protect our values and our critically important mission. Just as the university decides who will teach classes, and what organizations it will allow on campus, so Hillel will decide who will lead discussions in programs it sponsors and with whom it will partner.

Fingerhut also summarily disposed of the claim of Hillel-ier than thou that the Open Hillel movement likes to espouse. The Swarthmore group and others in the Open Hillel movement wave around its alleged mirroring of Rabbi Hillel, the namesake of the campus movement, who was a great teacher and leader who engaged in discussion with those with whom he disagreed.

“However,” said Fingerhut, “Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’”

In closing, Fingerhut wrote of Hillel International being the true son of Rabbi Hillel:

We here at Hillel International hold firm to his legacy. We encourage debate and dissent, but we draw the line at hosting groups who would deny the right of the State of Israel to exist. We will stand with Israel, the democratic, open, pluralistic home of the Jewish people.

On that fundamental principle, we are unwavering.

The entire statement can be found at Fingerhut’s homepage.

The local Federation paper, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, reveals that there are more details to be worked out.  It quotes what it refers to as the “Hillel of Greater Philadelphia’s staff person at Swarthmore, Rabbi Kelilah Miller,” who, presumably receives support, training, communications or other benefits from being affiliated with Hillel.  But Miller said she plans to “challenge the students to live up to the commitments they expressed in the resolution they adopted.”  In other words, she’s committed to ensuring the students continue to thumb their nose at Hillel’s guidelines.  Let’s hope she’s also committed to keeping her and their hands out of Hillel International’s pockets.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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111 Responses to “Hillel CEO: You Can’t Use Our Name if You Reject Zionism”

  1. Lynne Marton says:

    OMG!!!!!! I can't believe that these people at Swarthmore College would take such an Honourable and totally committed to Zionism Internationally known Organization and literally trash the very foundations it was built on!!!!! The quotation by Rabbi Hillel mentioned in here by CEO Eric Fingerghut “Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’” says it all. Hillel is a Zionist Organization – if you aren't a Zionist, you don't belong in this Organization – and you can't change the rules to suit yourselves when it goes against the core principles of Hillel, and on top of that, to expect it to be accepted and reap the benefits of said organization! Please excuse all the exclamation marks – I am just shaking with anger!!

  2. i truly hope this is a shift back sanity, what we have been hearing from Hilel and the actions they have been committing it looked as if they're turning into another j-street …. please make this a good thing .

  3. Anonymous says:

    kol hakavod

  4. Robert Sidi says:

    Anti-Zionists and anti-Israelists have easy access to so many places on campus without Hillel having to give them another one.

  5. Thank you! You said it for all of us and Israel! And it had to be said.

  6. Lee Kaplan says:

    In 2003 at the Ohio State Palsolidarity Conference seminars were held on how to infiltrate Hillel. Fingerhut is the first Hillel leader to refuse to play the fool. May it continue.

  7. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Kol HaKavod, Mr Fingerhut!

  8. Chaiya Eitan says:

    Whoever typed: her’s and their hands – it is not her's – it's hers.

  9. so you can be against Shabbos, Kosher, Family Values, etc. they have self-identifying "openly gay" Hillel rabbis, you know, but on this issue, they are dogmatic, even though there are many valid Jewish sources that question or repudiate Zionism – really sad and wrong

  10. The values of Open Hillel, in providing moral support to those who want to kill Jews, are more similar to Heinrich Himmler than to Rabbi Hillel. The organization should be called Open Himmler

  11. here is a portion of a letter I sent to Rabbi Miller

    Thank you for your courage

    Dear Rabbi Miller,

    Shalom u'vrachah! I hope this message finds you well.

    I want to congratulate you on your courage to embrace true pluralism in your Rabbinical career. I am a strictly Orthodox, Hasidic Rabbi, but I accept the fact that we live in a pluralistic society, and embrace that fact, even though I strongly disagree with many of my neighbors and peers, I still support them. I find it quite hypocritical when I hear of selective pluralism – I can understand someone who is consistently a fundamentalist keeping to their views and eschewing others, although I find such an approach distasteful it is at least consistent. However, when a community embraces pluralism, how can one be selective in their pluralism? Anti-Zionism is a valid Jewish viewpoint, that is embraced in many sectors of the Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Secular approaches to Judaism and/or Jewishness. Therefore, it is at least as valid as Zionism, and should be welcome as part of the free and open exchange of ideas in the Jewish community. Taking a dogmatic view on Zionism, while abandoning one on other fundamental practices and beliefs is rather hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. Furthermore, it alienates many progressive thinking and spiritually focused Jews from the Jewish community. This being said, I applaud your courage to stand up and allow an open forum for the free exchange of ideas, just as Benjamin Franklin did when he established the first institution of Higher Learning in Philadelphia, centuries in the past.

    With blessing and admiration of your courage,

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski

  12. here is a letter I sent to President Fingerhut:

    To the Honorable former Congressman Fingerhut, President of Hillel,

    Shalom u'vrachah! I hope this message finds you well.

    I want to express my confusion on the matter of Rabbi Kelilah Miller. I am a strictly Orthodox, Hasidic Rabbi, but I accept the fact that we live in a pluralistic society, and embrace that fact, even though I strongly disagree with many of my neighbors and peers, I still support them. I find it quite hypocritical when I hear of selective pluralism – I can understand someone who is consistently a fundamentalist keeping to their views and eschewing others, although I find such an approach distasteful it is at least consistent. However, when a community embraces pluralism, how can one be selective in their pluralism? Anti-Zionism is a valid Jewish viewpoint, that is embraced in many sectors of the Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Secular approaches to Judaism and/or Jewishness. Therefore, it is at least as valid as Zionism, and should be welcome as part of the free and open exchange of ideas in the Jewish community. Taking a dogmatic view on Zionism, while abandoning one on other fundamental practices and beliefs; such as Sabbath, Kosher, Family Values, belief in the Resurrection or the coming of the Messiah; is rather hypocritical and intellectually dishonest. Furthermore, it alienates many progressive thinking and spiritually focused Jews from the Jewish community. How is it that openly gay Rabbis are welcome to serve as Hillel Rabbis, but those who question political Zionism are not welcome? I am not saying that the openly gay rabbis should be banned, but neither should anti-zionist or non-zionist rabbis. I find it ironic that this ban on the free exchange of ideas should take place in the vicinity of Philadelphia, as when Benjamin Franklin established the first institution of Higher Learning in Philadelphia, centuries in the past, he based it on the fundamental of the free exchange of ideas and philosophies. Dogmatism is eschewed by so many portions of the Jewish community that Hillel warmly and rightly embraces, yet a dogmatic approach is taken when it comes to Zionism. I am respectfully curious as to why this is.

    With respect and genuine curiosity, I write sincerely and with blessing and Ahavath Yisrael,

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski

  13. Yavi Ore says:

    I left university because Hillel refused to help me when I complained that nearly all my political sciences and sociology classes were antisemitic in nature. Hillel did not help in my time of need and I found out that that same year they were inviting Norman Finkelstein to speak!

  14. Yavi Ore says:

    Thanks for nothing, Hillel @ U of T.

  15. Yavi Ore says:

    Shut up. No one cares what you are writing. You are a left wing hack. They can turn on CNN and listen to an identical voice to yours, Christiane Amanpour's.

  16. Yavi Ore says:

    Shut the **** up. You sound like a ******. Really, go jump off a bridge. You are no Jew. You subscribe to the religion of the Left. Stop calling yourself a rabbi. You are a waste of life.

  17. Bravo to Fingerhut and national Hillel! At the same time, these Swarthmore Hillel students actually make the national Hillel look
    stronger on Israel than they are. In fact, The national Hillel, to my knowledge, has
    never ever attempted to educate Jewish students about the true nature of
    the conflict over Israel, namely, Islamic anti-Semitism.The fact is
    that the fundamental religious doctrines of Islam, as set for in the
    Koran and the sayings of Muhammad, call for war against the Jews in
    order to either subjugate them or kill them.

    Here is what Islam's god says: "Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given [i.e. Jews and Christians]… until they pay tribute out of hand and are
    utterly subdued." Koran 9:29

    Here is what Islam's prophet said: "You (i.e. Muslims) will fight with the Jews till some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, '0 'Abdullah (i.e. slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him.' ”
    This is part of the Hamas Charter.

    The conflict over Israel is NOT a territorial conflict which can be resolved by drawing new lines on old maps. It is NOT a "Palestinian-Israeli" conflict which can be resolved by some sort of peace with the "Palestinians". It is not even
    an "Arab-Israeli" conflict. Iran is Israel's deadliest enemy, and Iran
    (that is, The Islamic Republic of Iran) is not even Arab, let alone
    "Palestinian".

    Not a single Moslem-majority country, including the PLO, recognizes Israel's right to exist. We are dealing with an Islamic holy war against the Jews, and Hillel has never even attempted to explain this to Jewish students.

  18. it is about time that someone stood up to the insane liberal Jewish philosophy of helping our enemies to destroy us. Let anti-Semites and anti-Zionists exercise their freedom of speech (within constitutional parameters) in their forums not ours. Hillary is to be commended for not following the example of the 92nd Street Y.

  19. I am a registered Republican and very right-wing – a fan of Glenn Beck, etc. – but I am only pointing out the hypocrisy of a liberal group like Hillel being selectively tolerant – I could understand if Hillel didn't accept self-identifying "openly-gay" "rabbis", but why do they chose this as the line?

  20. Edward Lobel says:

    While I strongly agree with the CEO, I think you have gone a little over board in your agreement and name calling. I am very liberal and resent your thinking that liberal are destroying us!

  21. Edward Lobel says:

    Yavi Ore If the U of T is texas or tennessee I can understand your frustration. Both of my brothers went to the U of Texsas (at Austin) and my youngre brother ran into some serious anti-Semetic probles.

  22. Yavi Ore says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski Because they are a Zionist organization!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Edward Lobel says:

    Yavi Ore I guess no university education will ever help a bigot like you.
    You are full of hatred and need to understand that just because you say something doesn't make it correct.

  24. Edward Lobel says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski No matter how wrong you are you are entitled to you opinion. I used to watch Glen Beck until I realized that almost all the things he was using as facts, were facts he made up. This is very common in politics, but is the mainstay of fox and all it's contributors. Several times when I respond telling contributors that the facts they are believing are not the real facts, I often get back responses quoting ultra right wing sources, which cannot be trusted to tell you the truth. I then quote the source of my facts which is not from left wing sources (such as MSMBC) but places like fact check, snoops, and other non partisan sights. The wind up is, I never get any additional responses as I believe they know they are incorrect and refuse to give up their wrong ideas!

  25. David Groen says:

    We need more people like this

  26. TO USE A HEBREW WORD"AMEN"!

  27. Yavi Ore – I thought they were a Jewish organization – this came up before when Hillel threw out a student president at University of Richmond some years back when she said "I thought Hillel was a Jewish organization, not only a Zionist organization" – sure it is their right to do so as you say, but they are cutting off their nose to spite their face because they are alienating a lot of Jewish Students who would enjoy coming to minyan or something but have a different view on Zionism

  28. Yavi Ore says:

    Edward Lobel Toronto, Canada

  29. Yavi Ore says:

    Edward Lobel It's everywhere. Universities and academia are inherently antisemitic.

  30. Hillel International is doing it's very best to alienate Jewish college students who want to be treated like the young adults that they are, capable of making their own minds up about Israel, Palestine, and Zionism, without paternalistic prohibitiions on who they can invite as speakers, and which Jewish students they can welcome as members, and I say that as someone who personally disagrees vehemently with anyone who calls themselves "antii-Zionist."

  31. Yavi Ore says:

    Edward Lobel People are NOT entitled to their opinions. This sense of entitlement you have is insidious. Facts reign supreme in the arena of politics and social science. When you start mixing opinions into an area deserving serious attention you obfuscate the realities of the matter. If someone goes on 3 long posts denigrating Hillel for being what he says is "hypocritical," then he needs to be put in his place firmly. He later claims he likes Glen Beck and is a registered Republican. I call bull****. Maybe I'm a bit unrefined and vulgar and hurtful, but in this day and age when you are confronted daily with morons like "Rabbi" Joe Kolakowski you need to be firm and harsh and tear those lefties apart like they do to every conservative or Jew they see that doesn't tow the "don't defend Israel" line.

  32. Edward Lobel says:

    Yavi Ore Reslly sorry to hear about your problem in Toronto. Aside from your leaving was anything ever done about the anti semtic teachers?

  33. Edward Lobel says:

    Yavi Ore On that one I am not sure. My younger brothers problem was with students and not teachers, He took corrective actions and the school did not throw my brother out! In fact when they heard why he did what he did, they did not even charge him for the damage he caused!

  34. Yavi Ore says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski You cannot be a Jew and not believe in Zionism. That has been our identity since the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Zionism and the reclamation of our homeland in full is part and parcel to being Jewish, now just as much as it was then.

  35. Edward Lobel says:

    Yavi Ore Sorry to disagree with you, but us lefties first take the opinions of morons like beck (I sometimes wonder how much of a moron beck really is because somehow he managed to become really wealthy with all his lies.) Anyway, it us lefties who take the opinions of lie tellers and give them the facts.

    I sometimes have opinions which I generally back up with facts, or I tell people it is an opinion and has no basis in fact and that I think is acceptable when you advise someone that it is an opinion.

    Sorry if that is a little confusing but I think you should be able to understand it. You may not agree, but then that is where opinions come in (LOL)

  36. excellent letter Rabbi. I'm not sure how the process works, as far as him getting the actual letter himself, but if he responds, I hope you will be so kind as to share.

  37. Yavi Ore says:

    Edward Lobel Nothing has ever been done about antisemitic professors. They have a whole god damned department, Near Middle Eastern Studies, designated to paint Israel and the Jews as usurpers and terrorists and Muslims as peaceful, loving and as contributors to the welfare of mankind.

  38. Yavi Ore says:

    Edward Lobel First you call me a bigot. You never backed that up with any proof. You just stated it as sort of matter of fact. This is what lefties do. When they disagree with someone, they defame or libel them first without any base for that defamation or libelous remark. Then you go on some crazy rant about Glenn Beck and Fox, which is bigotry perpetrated by the Left. You see what I did there? I provided proof and then I drew a conclusion that led to you being a bigot in my eyes. You just called me a bigot and never provided any reason to that effect. It's one thing to disagree, Eddie, but quite another to libel someone as a result.

  39. Yavi Ore says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski Why do you hate Israel? Zionism is our means to survival. You would love to see us ejected from our homeland, wouldn't you? Are you Naturei Karta?

  40. Edward Lobel says:

    Yavi Ore that sucks!

  41. Yavi Ore says:

    Edward Lobel That's why I get angry at apologists and professional deflectors like Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski.

  42. Ahron Ebert says:

    That is not a hebrew word but a christen word. the hebrew word is awmain

  43. I do not know anything about this Rabbi you guys are so nastu too but i tell you the truth that you guy are showing hatred which he dose not deserve. If you would take a lesson from the actions of Aharon HaGadol peace be upon him and more jews do the same Then the jewish ppl wouldnt suffer so much. Baisless hatred destroyd the temple and this hatred, so i wonder what this is going to cause?

  44. Yavi Ore I don't hate Israel – but I recognize that there are many different views on the subject – the Talmud is clear that Jews may not have a Jewish State before Moshiach is here – but also it is a mitzvah to live in the Holy Land regardless of who is in charge of it according to most opinions – but that is besides the point because Hillel accepts even gay rabbis, shabbos breaking rabbis, pork-eating rabbis etc. How do they draw the line at Zionism? Why is Neturei Karta less kosher than Reform? Neturei Karta has problems and so does Reform – but Hillel is supposed to be there for all Jews.

  45. I strongly disagree.
    If a student that goes to a Hillel program wants to go to a program funded by any of dozens of groups supporting the boycott and disparagement of Israel, they are free to do so. No one is keeping them from "making up their own mind". In fact, it would be harder for them to find pro-Israel comments that it would to find Anti-Israel comments on most US campuses.
    But it is false advertizing to represent themselves as Hillel, and also support BDS.
    You would hopefully object to Jewish Christians representing themselves as Jewish. Please have the intellectual honesty to do the same in this case.

  46. Burt Collins Street I absolutely would object if it were so called "Jewish Christians." I DESPISE so-call Jews for Jesus. This is a different issue.

  47. zionism is just another name for antisemitism. any non.jew is better then the zionists.

  48. Cathy Sherman says:

    Marion I. Lipshutz So much for tolerance and sharing of different views of Judaism. I'm not Christian, but just see the hypocrisy.

  49. Yavi Ore says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski You are a dhimmi. You want to be under the thumb of others because of your fantastical ideas. There is no moshiach nor will there ever be. By the hard work of secular Jews we have made it back to our home and can now protect ourselves from those that would exterminate us. But you just want to give Israel away to these animals so you can fulfill some retarded prophecy that will never materialize. In reality, your point has no validity.

  50. Yavi Ore says:

    Elisha Ben Abuyah You forget that it was due to the work of secular Jews that we reclaimed our homeland, not orthodox Jews. Show your respect. It was also secular Jews that saved many of you from the pogroms and mass Nazi killings.

  51. Yavi Ore says:

    Rabbi Joseph Kolakowski I'm not at all interested in where you stand with your Judaism and your Jewish identity. What should remain constant among all Jews is the protection of our homeland because without it we are sitting ducks. You may long for a day when we are rounded up so you can go to your god as a martyr, but I live in this world. I will not stand by while idiots calling themselves rabbis (but teaching history?) advocate the destruction of our homeland. Maybe you should study the 1930s more closely. You are the same ghetto Jew. You haven't changed a bit. You are a disgrace.

  52. the zio-nazis worked together in the deportation of jews with the nazis.they had even lists whom they would let into their state and haredim where not on this list. they were in the right spot at the right time and used the blood of the murdered by the nazis as the key to get into israel. the Un would have never given israel to these guys without the holocaust. they clearly benefitted from the nazis and still do by keeping alive that they are the defendants of world-jewry against the evil non-jews.

  53. Yavi Ore says:

    Elisha Ben Abuyah What's with this slur you keep using? Zio-Nazis? Why are you so hell-bent on equating Judaism with Nazism? You realize that is a tool the Fakestinians use to demonize the State of Israel, which is complete and utter lies. You probably think Israel has committed war crimes. Which in that case I am talking to a wooden post or a Muslim posing as a Jew.

  54. Yavi Ore says:

    Elisha Ben Abuyah What's with this slur you keep using? Zio-Nazis? Why are you so hell-bent on equating Judaism with Nazism? You realize that is a tool the Fakestinians use to demonize the State of Israel, which is complete and utter lies. You probably think Israel has committed war crimes. Which in that case I am talking to a wooden post or a Muslim posing as a Jew.

  55. i heard these stories from eye witnesses who survived the holocaust. where have you been in the holocaust ?

  56. i heard these stories from eye witnesses who survived the holocaust. where have you been in the holocaust ?

  57. Yavi Ore says:

    Burt Collins Street I agree. Marion is a moron. I was writing a response to her OP but the page refreshed on me and I couldn't be bothered with writing it again.

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