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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Eric Fingerhut’

Hillel Explains When ‘Open Hillel’ Will Result in Disaffiliation

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Over the last few months, Jewish student groups on two American campuses affiliated with the Hillel International Foundation publicly rejected Hillel’s guidelines for partnership.

The first to stick out its tongue at the mother ship was Swat Hillel, the Hillel group at Swarthmore College, in suburban Philadelphia.  On December 8, the group approved a resolution declaring itself to be an “Open Hillel.”

According to the resolution, the Swarthmore College group rejected Hillel International’s guidelines “which privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome.”

This week a second Jewish campus organization, the Vassar Jewish Union at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, declared it also would not abide by Hillel’s Israel guidelines.

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International, issued a firm and swift public response to each of those public declarations.

First, what are those guidelines the two groups cannot abide?

Hillel welcomes, partners with, and aids the efforts of organizations, groups, and speakers from diverse perspectives in support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice:

  • Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders;
  • Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel;
  • Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel;
  • Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.

In other words, you can think whatever you want, even about Israel, you just can’t use Hillel to provide a platform for haters of Israel.

College students tend to rebel against any kind of guidelines, even the most benign ones, and that’s pretty much what the Jewish students at Swarthmore and Vassar did.

FINGERHUT RESPONDS

Eric Fingerhut, the tall, amiable-looking relatively new head of Hillel International, immediately responded to the public pouts with cordial, yet firm, responses.

Within two days of Swarthmore’s vote to reject Hillel’s guidelines, Fingerhut wrote: “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.”

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.”

Vassar rejected the Hillel guidelines on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Fingerhut again responded cordially but firmly in a statement released on Thursday, Feb. 20.

Hillel’s vision is to help Jewish students build an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Israel is a critical part of the Jewish people’s shared history and identity, and we will always encourage students to engage with Israel in a meaningful way.  Hillel will not, however, give a platform to groups or individuals to attack the Jewish people, Jewish values or the Jewish state’s right to exist. This includes groups or individuals that support and advance the BDS movement, which represents a vicious attack on the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Our expectation is that all Hillel affiliates will continue to uphold these standards for partners and co-sponsors. We look forward to helping every Hillel meet the goals of Jewish student exploration, education and identity.

While Fingerhut’s statement is a firm declaration of its commitment to its own guidelines, it makes no mention of what will happen should an affiliated campus group refuse to abide by those guidelines.

WHEN CONSEQUENCES WILL BE TRIGGERED

The Jewish Press pressed that point, and extracted some level of clarity about what Hillel International intends to do, and when it intends to do it, to campus groups which flout the guidelines.

Guess What: 2013 Was a Great Pro-Israel Year on US Campuses!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

For years those engaged on the pro-Israel side of the battle for hearts and minds of American college students have watched in horror as anti-Israel forces – whether they call themselves “pro-Israel” or not – metastasized on campuses.

The Israel-demonization events, the infiltration by Israel vilifiers into what were formerly at least moderately pro-Israel institutions, and the disruptions of Israeli or pro-Israel events, were met almost always with either complicity or a hands-off response from the academic administrations, faculty, and often eventhe organized Jewish leadership on campuses.

Things were so bad that Arab Israeli journalist Khaled abu Toameh famously wrote that on his speaking tours of U.S. campuses, he found more sympathy for Hamas than he does in Ramallah.

This is how abu Toameh analyzed the ugliness spread across American academia:

What is happening on these campuses is not in the frame of freedom of speech. Instead, it is the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence. As such, we should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from the Gaza Strip or the mountains and mosques of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from university campuses across the U.S.

But things were beginning to look quite different in 2013.

There has been a sea change on U.S. campuses this year, carried out by those who refused to back down when false claims of Palestinian Arab victimhood or Israeli brutality were raised.

Hallelujah. So we are fortunate to be able to write a list of Top Twelve Pro-Israel Bright Lights on U.S. campuses. What follows is the first installment. Part II will run later this week.

*******

1. Far and away the most significant example of this refusal to accept the tired meme of Israel As The-Worst-Human-Rights-Abuser -And-Biggest-Enemy-of-Peace is The Backlash to the American Studies Association’s vote to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions.  We now know that 95 universities across the United States have rejected and publicly condemned the ASA boycott of Israel.

That includes the most prestigious private schools, state schools, schools at which anti-Israel activity had been flourishing, and almost every other kind of American academic institutions. Condemnations poured in from the likes of Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Yale, University of Chicago, Penn State, Northwestern, Goucher, as well as industry-wide associations of professors and of universities. Several schools, such as Brandeis, Penn State, Kenyon and Indiana University summarily withdrew their membership in the ASA because the boycott so clearly reflected a loss of the association’s mission, an affront to academic freedom and a discriminatory singling out of a single nation for condemnation.

2. and 3. A tie for second place goes to two relatively new leaders of at least nominally Jewish institutions, each of whom staked new ground, rejecting their predecessors’ policies for tolerating abusive positions towards Israel.

Eric Fingerhut became president and CEO of Hillel International this past summer.  For years, many Hillels across the United States have chosen an aggressively passive response to anti-Israel events on campuses, choosing to have their own quiet events instead of confronting viciously anti-Israel events filled with misinformation and lies about the Jewish State. Hillels have even welcomed some of the worst offenders into their buildings or even their own events, in the hopes of showing the enemy that they are really good people. It’s been a disaster.

This past fall the Hillel group at suburban Philadelphia’s Swarthmore College decided it would publicly challenge the pro-Israel guidelines set by Hillel International.  Students bridled against being forbidden the “right” to invite speakers who 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.  Swarthmore Hillel students voted unanimously to reject the guidelines and declare theirs an “Open Hillel.” And then they received a surprise.

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

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/hillel-ceo-you-cant-use-our-name-if-you-reject-zionism/2013/12/11/

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