March 30, 2015 – As part of Open Hillel’s national tour, three Jewish veterans of the Civil Rights movement spoke in Ann Arbor this evening in the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Over one hundred people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the University of Michigan student group Jews Allied for Social Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace at the University of Michigan, University of Michigan Community Action Social Change, and University of Michigan Organizational Studies.
Dorothy Zellner, Larry Rubin, and Ira Grupper, three Jewish veteran activists of the Civil Rights Movement, spoke about their life-long commitments fighting for human rights. Former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Freedom Summer activists, their activism has always been inspired by their Jewish values, which they now apply to their activism work regarding Israel/Palestine.
The activists are traveling to campuses across the country to talk with students about their involvement in racial justice struggles from the 1960s to the present day. These activists will discuss how Judaism informs their work in fighting against the oppression of all people, from Selma to Ferguson and from Mississippi to Jerusalem.
In recent years, these activists have been vocal about their opinions on Israel/Palestine, participating in activism groups such as The New Jewish Agenda and Jews Say No!; consequently, they have been banned from speaking by many Jewish institutions across the United States. Despite the fact that the event is co-sponsored by a Hillel student group, University of Michigan Hillel has refused to allow the event to happen within their space on campus.
Despite these barriers, Jewish students are excited to host the Freedom Summer activists. “These three civil rights veterans are an inspiration to young Jews and other allies working for social justice today” says Jake Rothenberg, a member of Jews Allied for Social Justice. “Risking their lives for racial Justice, they have continued to use their Jewish upbringing and values as a foundation for their activism — something we hope to emulate in the current struggles in Israel, Palestine, and the United States”.
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.
Open Hillel Coordinator at the University of Michigan