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September 19, 2014 / 24 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Hillel’

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.

Students Angered by Hillel’s Pro-Israel Standards

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Hillel, which self-defines as the “center of Jewish life on campus,” and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, are calling attention to their frequent collaboration in an op-ed penned by national Hillel’s new president and chief executive officer, Eric Fingerhut, and Jonathan Kessler, AIPAC’s leadership development director, in this week’s issue of the New York Jewish Week .

The two acknowledge the Jewish community’s concern about this country’s campus environment “that is too often hostile to Israel. Public demonstrations, inflammatory language and personal attacks by anti-Israel organizations seek to exploit the spirit of open debate and public action central to American academic life.”

The article gives examples of the efficacy of their collaboration to “strategically and proactively empower, train and prepare American Jewish students to be effective pro-Israel activists on and beyond the campus.”

In theory, it is a good idea, and there is anecdotal evidence of success.

OPEN HILLEL

However, some students were alarmed by what seemed to be a formalizing of the relationship between Hillel and AIPAC.  These are students and adult mentors who are trying to create a movement known as “Open Hillel.”

This movement started earlier this year at Harvard – although it has not yet been successful there. However, it is cropping up on other campuses. In fact, this Sunday, Dec. 8, the Swarthmore College Hillel student board unanimously voted to declare itself an Open Hillel.

The activists behind Open Hillel are opponents of Hillel’s national guidelines. Those guidelines, crafted several years ago, discuss the many ways in which Hillel is an inclusive institution, but places outside its boundaries those entities that seek to “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel,” or which advocate the economic and political warfare known as the Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) movement.

What’s wrong with that standard?  Well, there are college students who are put out by such rules.  They say:

These guidelines are counterproductive to creating real conversations about Israel on campus. They prevent campus Hillels from inviting co-sponsorship or dialogue with Palestinians, as almost all Palestinian campus groups support the boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel. They also exclude certain Jewish groups because of their political views. Although individual campus Hillels are not obligated to follow the guidelines, they have been used to pressure Hillels into shutting down open discourse on Israel.

Mind you, these students still want to benefit from the goodies they get from Hillel donors, such as the meeting space, the opportunity (i.e. funds) to bring in (anti-Israel) speakers, communication networks and lots of other goods and services for which the Hillel donors pay.  Those guidelines certainly could not stop any independent student groups from engaging in whatever anti-Israel activities they desire.  But the advocates for an Open Hillel want their tent and the right to blow it up, also.

Perhaps there will be a movement by Hillel donors demanding that the money provided to the Hillel foundation not be used for activities that are contrary to the organization’s stated guidelines.  Maybe an open door will be shown to those who want an Open Hillel.

However, in response to this newly formalized collaboration between Hillel and AIPAC, the Open Hillel advocates are lovingly supportive of the high priority Hillel places on inclusiveness. This time it is the “hawkish AIPAC” they resent.

Why?

Because, according to this group, AIPAC’s definition of “pro-Israel” cannot be the benchmark for what is and is not acceptable within the Jewish community on campus. The example of an unacceptable AIPAC position provided in the Open Hillel Response to Fingerhut and Kessler’s celebration of collaboration is “the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital.” Why is that unacceptable? “Because the Palestinian Arabs also claim Jerusalem as their capital.”

Again, this is not a question of whether any group can bring anti-Israel speakers or activities to campus, the only question is whether Hillel donors should be required to pay for it.

A quote comes to mind from Cong. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) when talking about the “open-mindedness” of J Street with respect to Israel positions. He said “an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.”

There is another direction from which the Hillel/AIPAC relationship may receive criticism. But these students don’t demand that Hillel changes, these students seek out other organizations on campus with which to work.

For these pro-Israel students on campus, the Hillel method of dealing with anti-Israel activity, rather than being empowering, actually seems to empower the anti-Israel activists.

That is because the “behind-the-scenes” diplomacy and interfaith gestures Hillels generally favor seem, some believe, to result in pro-Israel students simply remaining silent and ignoring lies and distortions and the painting of Israel as an evil occupier. A preferred method for responding to, for example, BDS conferences is to host inclusive Shabbat dinners. Those are nice, but do nothing to counter the lies which, when repeated often enough, attain the status of truth to the students who hear them, or who read reports of those events.

For these less passive pro-Israel students, there are the more action-oriented groups such as the CAMERA Campus Activist Project, or StandWithUs or the Chabads on campus.

The students who work with these groups may still utilize Hillel resources for other activities, but turn to other sources of guidance, and resources, in order to pursue their version of Israel advocacy.

Hecklers Flee Israeli Speaker at U of Florida

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Anat Berko is a small-framed woman known for her ubiquitous yards long braid.  She is also one of the world’s leading counter terrorism experts who has sat in prison cells next to some of the most dangerous serial killers and attempted homicide bombers who ever lived.

A handful of anti-Israel University of Florida students chose the wrong speaker to interrupt.

Berko was at the Gainesville campus on Thursday, Oct. 10, as the guest of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

According to CAMERA fellow Avia Gridi, with approximately 7,000 Jewish students, the University of Florida has the single largest number of Jewish students at any university in the United States.

This is Gridi’s first year as a CAMERA fellow and the “More Hummus, Less Hamas” evening with Berko was her first event.

The Smarter Bomb is Berko’s second book about homicide bombers.  In it she tells the story of the women and children who are induced to attempt to become homicide bombers.  Berko knows the experience of those women well.  She spent decades inside Israeli prisons interviewing the women who failed to martyr themselves either because of a technical malfunction or because the authorities were able to disrupt the plans.

Berko gained the trust of dozens of such women in Israeli cells. Her particular interest in writing The Smarter Bomb was to uncover the motivation of the women and children to attempt to commmit such acts, especially the difference in motivations between women and men.

Having as your laboratory the prison cells of people who attempted to kill – they say “martyr” – themselves in order to murder Israeli men, women and children is not the choice of someone who is easily frightened.  But in addition to being a social scientist, Berko is also a Lieutenant Colonel (Res) in the Israel Defense Forces. That is also not a career choice for people who are easily intimidated. And Berko isn’t.

So eight minutes after Berko began speaking at Pugh Hall last Thursday night, when four students, who had arrived late, suddenly stood up, removed their outer shirts and began chanting accusations, Berko was having none of it.

“Hamas is not the Problem, the Israeli Occupation Is!” and “The IDF kills women and children!” were the slogans drawn on the students shirts, and chanted by the students.

“What is wrong with you?” Berko sharply addressed the four. “Sit down and listen to what I have to say and wait for the question and answer portion of this event to raise your issues!”

But the four students who later identified themselves as members of the seemingly ubiquitous, but certainly infamous, Students for Justice in Palestine were not interested in listening to Berko.  They came to make their own voices heard.

“She seemed disgusted by the display,” Gridi told The Jewish Press.

And then Berko really let them have it.

“You think the IDF kills children? You should go to Syria, where everyone knows they are murdering thousands of children with gas and other cruel weapons!  Go to Syria where there are actually thousands of real refugees. They need you to demonstrate in Syria, go!” Berko lectured the SJP hecklers.

And with that, the hecklers left the room and Berko continued her lecture. The people who came to hear about what could possibly motivate women and children (that’s the “smart bomb” Berko means) to want to kill themselves were able to hear from her first hand observations and watch video clips of many who attempted to be smart bombs.

And the four hecklers? They left the room with their tails between their legs, unable to grab the spotlight for their inane chants, unable to disrupt a carefully prepared evening of education which Gridi and CAMERA’s co-sponsors for the event, the ICC, MEMRI and the Gainesville Hillel put on.

“I’m used to sitting in jail cells with serial killers, did they think I would be intimidated by some American college students?” Berko said in a phone interview on Wednesday evening with The Jewish Press.

When asked about the Berko event, Gridi was both pleased and a bit nonplussed.

“The event went really well, although none of it went as expected.”

Yahrzheit Today for Dr. Applebaum and Daughter Nava

Monday, August 19th, 2013

A Palestinian Authority suicide bomber ten years ago Monday night, on the Hebrew calendar, exploded his charge and killed seven people, including American Israelis Dr. David Applebaum and his daughter Nava the evening before her wedding date.

Slightly less than two years ago, Palestinian Authority terrorist Ibrahim Muhammad Yunus Dar Musa, who helped plan the gruesome murders, was among more than 1,000 terrorists and security prisoners whose prison sentences were cut short in order to enable the safe return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

Dar Musa was sentenced to only 17 years in jail for organizing the suicide bombing. Dr. Applebaum, a native of Detroit and an ordained rabbi, headed a hospital emergency room and had developed new methods for treating suicide bombing victims.

He was walking into Jerusalem’s Hillel restaurant with his 20-year-old daughter, born in Cleveland, when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.

Several hours earlier, Nava immersed herself in a mikveh ritual bath, as is required prior to a wedding, which in this case never took place.

The security guard at the restaurant, warned by intelligence officials of a possible terrorist attack, spotted the suicide bomber but did not want to shoot him in the back, fearing that the bullet would set off the bomb.

Hillel Argentina, Tel Aviv U. Launch Jewish Entrepreneurship Plan

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Hillel Argentina and Tel Aviv University are launching an entrepreneurship center and incubator of companies for Jewish entrepreneurs.

The companies participating in the program, which will start Tuesday, will have training and accelerator courses in Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv with a focus on entrepreneurship, Jewish business values and Israel-Diaspora ties.

Ryan Fain, the Hillel director in charge of the Hilabs program, told JTA that the program “is unique throughout the world and has the goal of connecting the Jewish youth of the Diaspora with Israel in a non-traditional way.”

The program aims to train young people with entrepreneurial spirit to promote the creation of companies of young people in the community and spread the ethical and moral values of Judaism. The Argentinian mentors are well-known, successful Jewish entrepreneurs.

The program includes a formation stage, training and incubator, two months in Buenos Aires and two months in Israel, mainly at StarTau, the Tel Aviv University Entrepreneurship Center. The program between Israel and the Diaspora also has support from the Jewish Agency.

“The part in Israel is very unique, as it is the only option for young Diaspora Jews to learn hands-on the Israeli entrepreneurial process and to meet with young successful entrepreneurs,” StarTau director Amos Avner told JTA.

Will New Hillel Head Honcho Continue Stretching the ‘Big Tent’?

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The desk where the buck will stop at Hillel headquarters is about to get a new occupant.  There are those who worry that a recent, perhaps accelerating Hillel trend towards allowing everyone “in the tent” will come to mean that there are no standards at all.

Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, serves Jewish students in more than 500 universities worldwide, the vast majority of which are in the United States. The annual operating budget is just under $90 million.

But while Hillel is “the largest Jewish campus and community-based organization in the world serving the college-age population,” some wonder whether the orientation which is increasingly about “self-authorship” regarding Jewish practice, is likewise so open-ended about support for Israel that the words mean very little.

For instance, in the last year, the venomously anti-Israel group “Breaking the Silence”, an organization which exists solely to demonize the Israel Defense Forces, has been welcomed into Hillel, the Jewish communal home on campus.  And this didn’t only happen on the west coast University of California at Berkeley, as suggested in an article by JNS.com reprinted in EJewishPhilanthropy.org.

The University of Pennsylvania Hillel also hosted a speaker from Breaking the Silence this spring. According to those involved, the issue was put to a vote of the board of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, and the majority chose to host the group.

Breaking the Silence isn’t just any anti-Israel organization.  Last month the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, Capt. Barak Raz, exasperated by the organization’s continuous pummeling of the IDF, while it nonetheless refused to engage with the IDF in order to make changes. In an interview with Tazpit News, Raz explained that the IDF has standing orders, regulations, and an ethical code that soldiers must abide by.

“These not only require soldiers to act according to the law, but also to report instances when things were otherwise,” he writes. “Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes, these soldiers simply blame the army for what they did wrong,” he told Tazpit News Agency.

Furthermore, Raz continues, “the information used by Breaking the Silence by and large seems to derive from two sources – unverifiable hearsay or accounts from anonymous former soldiers who, sometimes, they themselves deserve to be behind bars in military prison for what they did!”

Natan Nestel is the former chairman of the Israeli Students Organization in North America.  Nestel has spent the past several years making a documentary about Hillels, and he is greatly disturbed by what he has found.

Nestel told JNS.org that groups that demonize Israel should be outside of the ‘big tent’ on campus.

“Nominally Jewish groups, including those who assist anti-Israel groups and speakers to come to campuses, should not be included [in the tent],” Nestel said. Nestel cited the self-labeled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street, which he said sponsored the appearance at Berkeley of Breaking the Silence, an Israeli group that defames the Israeli army for “war crimes,” “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing” and “violations of human rights.”

In the statement issued by the entity engaged to conduct the search for the next Hillel leader, a frank admission is made about the shift in orientation regarding how Hillel sees itself in relationship to being a Jewish institution on campus,

Over the decades, Hillel’s approach to education and engagement has evolved. Once seen as the “synagogue on campus,” Hillel today encourages students to take ownership of their Jewish experience and define “Jewish” in their own way. The destination of their Jewish journey is up to the student – Hillel provides the resources.

Is what the Hillels are doing just another attempt to define “pro-Israel” in their own way?  As Nestel points out,

J Street is already entrenched at Berkeley’s Hillel and the JSU (Jewish Student Union),” Nestel wrote. “The Hillel group, Kesher Enoshi (KE), is its proxy there. This year KE, along with J Street U, brought the founder of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement in to speak at Hillel. He demonized Israel, proclaiming, ‘Jerusalem is a symbol of evil.’ Berkeley’s Hillel director argued that this was ‘within the framework of national Hillel’s Israel policy.’

A professional search firm, Spencer Stuart Executive Search, was hired by Hillel in January.  An internal search committee was announced in February.

In April, the search firm announced that nearly 325 individuals had been identified as potential candidates, and that more than 200 people had been contacted by the committee.

Initial predictions were that the new Hillel leader would assume the position in June.  That timeline was recently revised, and it is now anticipated that the new Hillel CEO will be announced at the 2013 annual gathering known as the Hillel Institute, which will take place on July 29, at Washington University in St. Louis.

Princeton’s Rabbi James Diamond Killed in Traffic Accident

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Rabbi James Diamond, the retired director of Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life, has died in a traffic accident after leaving a breakfast Talmud study group.

Rabbi Diamond, 73, who retired from the center 10 years ago, was killed when a speeding car crashed into a parked car which the rabbi was entering on the passenger side. The driver of the parked car, Rabbi Robert Freedman, who also attended the study group, was hospitalized. He is expected to recover from his injuries.

Diamond was the director of the Center for Jewish Life from 1995 to 2003. He also served as executive director of the Hillel at Washington University in St, Louis from 1972 to 1995, and at Indiana University from 1968 to 1972.

He was ordained in 1963 by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and later taught courses in modern Hebrew literature and Judaic Studies at Washington University, Princeton University, and in the Princeton community.

Diamond was born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada. He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Judy, three children and six grandchildren.

“If I’ve touched lives and given some people an idea that Judaism is broad and deep and a source of great meaning, and that being a Jew is a great gift, then I’ve succeeded,” Diamond said of his work with Jewish students in an interview with the New Jersey Jewish News after announcing his retirement in 2003.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/princetons-rabbi-james-diamond-killed-in-traffic-accident/2013/04/03/

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