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October 8, 2015 / 25 Tishri, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Hillel International’

Hillel Responds to ‘Outrageous’ Attack on Israel Guidelines

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

This op-ed was written in response to another op-ed, one in which a long-time Hillel professional, Rabbi Bruce Warshal, announced that he was quitting his position with Hillel because of the organization’s staunch support of its own Israel guidelines.


Rabbi Bruce Warshal sadly announced his departure from the Hillel movement in the Sun Sentinel newspaper on March 4, 2014. As the chairman of the Board of Directors of Hillel International, I join Rabbi Warshal in expressing a heavy heart.

My sadness results from Rabbi Warshal’s decision to leave the remarkable organization I am proud to serve based on a gross mischaracterization of Hillel’s positive values and inclusive policies. It is my hope that a clarification of Hillel’s true values and mission will encourage Rabbi Warshal to remain part of the Hillel family, where he is quite welcome.

Contrary to what Rabbi Warshal claims, no individual is banned from Hillel, and no issue is off limits to our students. Indeed, Hillel encourages students to bring all their ideas, questions, and concerns about Jewish life and identity through our doors and to our dedicated professionals. It is only through such openness that we can fulfill our vision of “inspiring an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.”

Hillel creates opportunities for students to travel to Israel, to learn about Israeli culture, history and current events, to forge relationships with Israelis, and to build a culture of civility on campus where students can engage with Israel and Judaism in a positive and authentic way. Hillel’s tent is big enough to welcome Jews no matter their politics, level of religious observance, or perspectives.

The guidelines Rabbi Warshal deplores clearly articulate a commitment to inclusion and to the fostering of “civil discourse about Israel in a safe and supportive college environment that is fertile for dialogue and learning.” To fulfill this commitment, Hillel proudly partners with many organizations and groups from across the political and religious spectrum.

Within the rich environment of open debate and learning Hillel cultivates, we steadfastly maintain our commitment to support “Israel as a Jewish and democratic state … as a member of the family of nations.” For this reason, Hillel rightly refrains from hosting or partnering with speakers or groups who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel, or support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.

Those who advocate the destruction of the Jewish people, Jewish values or the Jewish state will not be offered a platform or partnership. How Rabbi Warshal gets from this legitimate position to the claim that “liberal Jews who love Israel but disagree with the current Netanyahu government” are banned from Hillel is impossible for me to explain. It is a false and outrageous accusation.

The stories Rabbi Warshal tells to condemn Hillel’s Israel guidelines are similarly false. They have been refuted by Hillel time and again, yet live on in the blogs and media stories upon which the rabbi apparently relies. Had Rabbi Warshal checked with Hillel, he would know these stories are inaccurate.

For example, contrary to Rabbi Warshal’s claim, Avrum Burg was, in fact, welcomed to Harvard Hillel where he spoke to students. Yes, Harvard Hillel did decline to co-sponsor a public event later that same evening with an organization that annually has brought “Israel Apartheid Week” to Harvard, and that ceaselessly seeks the alienation and the dissolution of the Jewish State. My colleagues and I on the Hillel International Board of Directors think Harvard Hillel got it right.

Hillel provides a welcoming, open and pluralistic environment for Jewish students of all backgrounds on 550 college and university campuses across North America and in 13 countries on five continents. We offer Jewish students a home away from home, and serve to protect and enrich Jewish life on campus. Hillel is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. It is a vital and growing organization, to which thousands of volunteers, professionals and student leaders dedicate their time, energy and resources every day. Their work is a credit to the Jewish people, and they deserve our thanks.

Open Hillel at Vassar Because ‘Israel Haters Are People Too’

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

As went Swarthmore College, so goes Vassar, two tiny liberal arts colleges located in lower Northeastern portion of the United States. Both are incredibly expensive, competitive and uber-liberal. As of Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Vassar Jewish Union became an Open Hillel.

It should not have come as a big surprise to anyone that Judaism and the Jewish State are not at the top of the list of priorities for the Jewish Union at Vassar College, which is located in Poughkeepsie, New York.

The self-description for the VJU Twitter account and on its Facebook page states that it is “an open and welcoming space for all religious backgrounds and interests to come together!”

So why the need to specifically distance itself from Hillel, given it had already chosen not to use the name?

Like the Swarthmore “Jewish” group on campus, the Vassar Jews felt the need to shout from the rooftops, or at least on their website and twitter feeds, that “identification with Israel is not necessarily an integral part of every individual’s Jewish identity, and that Hillel International has certain standards for partnership which the VJU find unacceptable.”

What can’t the VJU abide? Prohibiting speakers who: “(1) deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; 2) Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; 3) Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; and 4) Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.”

So VJU refuses to bar the door to those who believe the Jewish State should be annihilated, or who insist Israel should be held to a standard that differs from the one to which any other country is held, or who support economic and or legal warfare against the Jewish State.

In response to the prohibitions in Hillel International’s standards, VJU repeatedly states in its press release announcing its conversion to an “Open Hillel,” that it is non-partisan, will not advocate any particular political opinions, and “will welcome open discourse concerning Israel, Palestine, and any other relevant and critical issues, and will not exclude on the basis of political opinion.”

What will happen when someone from the Zionist Organization of America asks to speak at the Vassar Jewish Union? Or someone from a Tea Party group?  Or a Catholic ardent anti-abortion rights advocate? After all, VJU is supposed to be an “open and welcoming space for all religious backgrounds and interests to come together.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/open-hillel-at-vassar-because-israel-haters-are-people-too/2014/02/20/

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