Swarthmore Hillel votes to defy Hillel’s Policy pertaining to Israel programming; Hillel President rejects the Swarthmore resolution and insists that any group carrying the Hillel name abide by Hillel’s Standards for Partnership.
Matters heated up recently within Hillel when, on December 8th, Swathmore Hillel Student Board announced it had voted unanimously to defy Hillel International’s policy on Israel activities. With that, Swarthmore has become the first college to join the Open Hillel movement, whose aim is to pressure Hillel International into changing its “standards for partnership” and allow Hillel chapters to sponsor speakers or groups that do the following:
“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.”
Swarthmore Hillel Student Board Communications Coordinator Joshua Wolfsun contacted Hillel International President Eric D. Fingerhut, informing him of the board’s resolution. In response, Fingerhut drafted a response, stating that Swarthmore’s resolution to partner or host with any group or speaker at the discretion of its board, regardless of Hillel Israel guidelines, is unacceptable.
In the response, President Fingerhut restated the crux of the Hillel Israel guidelines, as stated above, adding also that the guidelines state that “Hillel is ‘steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders as a member of the family of nations.’ ”
According to the Hillel website, Hillel operates in 55 countries; there are 550 colleges/universities in the United States with an active Hillel, and 55 Hillels serve students outside the US. Hillel is a vast organization and is composed of members from a variety of backgrounds. Yet there are certain principles that Hillel has carefully laid out in order to unify Hillel chapters worldwide and to protect Hillel’s core mission of nurturing the Jewish identity of young people. That is why, as President Fingerhut wrote, “Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines. No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.”
Assaults on Israel’s right to exist, BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns against Israel, and Israel Apartheid Week on College campuses are gaining prevalence. That said, it is of paramount importance that Fingerhut unequivocally insist that all Hillel chapters abide by Hillel’s Standards for Partnership. While debate on Israel and inclusiveness should be encouraged, there is a line: Those who call for the dismantlement of the Jewish State, whether directly or implicitly, should have no stage in a Hillel-sponsored forum. Unfortunately, Swathmore’s Joshua Wolfson fails to understand this when he commented that “It’s not that we all support BDS or even that any of us support BDS, but we want to make room for everybody who does.”
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