March 22, 2015 — Nearly one hundred Rabbis, professors, Jewish professionals, and Jewish leaders from around the country are calling upon Hillel International to stop driving away its students.
The Jewish leaders’ statement came after Hillel International threatened to sue Swarthmore College over Swarthmore Hillel’s planned Israel-Palestine programming. Rather than bow to legal pressure and censor their programming, Swarthmore Hillel’s student board voted to change their name. They made this decision following a two-hour discussion open to all members of the Jewish community on campus.
Hillel International’s legal threats against Swarthmore demonstrate a recurring trend in which Hillel International chooses to appease a small number of right-wing donors rather than engage Jewish students. Similar ultimatums from Hillel International recently lead the student president of Muhlenberg Hillel to resign in protest over Hillel International’s policy of suppressing of open discourse on Israel-Palestine.
The statement’s signatories include Rabbi Richard Levy, former UCLA Hillel director and author of Hillel’s Machzor, On Wings of Awe, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, one of the founders of the Jewish renewal movement and leader of the Shalom Center. The statement was also signed by a former JStreetU president, rabbis from synagogues in numerous states, professors at universities around the country, and individuals affiliated with organizations as diverse as Ameinu, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Habonim Dror, and T’ruah.
Hillel International has not yet indicated whether they will continue to threaten Hillel students whose programming violates the “Standards of Partnership” with legal action.
*Open Hillel is a national grassroots organization of Jewish college students and young alumni working to promote inclusion and open discourse on Israel-Palestine within campus Jewish communities.