Open Hillel Campaign

What is Open Hillel?

Open Hillel is a student-run campaign to encourage inclusivity and open discourse at campus Hillels. We seek to change the "standards for partnership" in Hillel International's guidelines, which exclude certain groups from Hillel based on their political views on Israel. In addition, we encourage local campus Hillels to adopt policies that are more open and inclusive than Hillel International's guidelines, and that allow for free discourse on all subjects within the Hillel community.  Visit our website here!

Want to get involved? 

Sign up for our mailing list here
Sign our petition to Hillel International (if you are a Harvard affiliate, please sign here)
Submit a testimonial
Show your support by posting this cover photo! 
Join the campaign or start one on your own campus - contact us!

(our new cover photo!!!!)

Why Open Hillel?

Hillel International's current 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, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, from the Hillel community. 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. (For specific examples, see "What are the effects of the current guidelines?" below.)

We believe deeply in the ideal, expressed in Hillel International's mission statement, of a vibrant, pluralistic Jewish community on campus, in which all people, regardless of their religious observance, past Jewish experience, or personal beliefs, are welcome. In many ways, Hillel has been remarkably successful at fostering such a pluralistic and inclusive community, bringing together students from different backgrounds to learn from and support one another, as well as to openly debate and discuss their differing views. We believe that this pluralism should be extended to the subject of Israel, and that no Jewish group should be excluded from the community for its political views.

In addition, we believe that inter-community dialogue and free discourse, even on difficult subjects, is essential in the context of an educational institution and a democratic society. Open discussion and debate is a Jewish value, and we are proud of our culture's long tradition of encouraging the expression of multiple, even contradictory, views and arguments. However, Hillel International's current guidelines encourage Jewish students to avoid seriously engaging with Palestinian students or other students on campus with differing views on Israel-Palestine. This is detrimental to the goal of encouraging mutual understanding, cooperation, and peace. Thus, we believe it is essential that Hillel-affiliated groups be able to partner with other campus groups in order to share perspectives, cooperate in those areas where we agree, and respectfully debate in those areas where we disagree.

Open Hillel is a coalition of students working for the full expression of these values in our Hillel communities and in Hillel International's guidelines. We invite you to join us, whether by signing the petition to Hillel International, signing a petition to your campus Hillel, writing a testimonial, or organizing an Open Hillel campaign on your campus.

What are the effects of the current guidelines?

The current guidelines have two main effects: limiting the Jewish groups that can become affiliated with campus Hillels, and limiting the outside groups with which Hillel-affiliated groups are permitted to co-sponsor events.
At Brandeis, for example, students founded a local chapter of the organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which, among other things, advocates for targeted divestment from companies that profit off the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. This group, as a Jewish organization, sought affiliation with Brandeis Hillel, but was denied on the basis of its political views.
Recently at Harvard, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, an affiliated group of Harvard Hillel, was prevented from holding one of its events in the Hillel building. This decision was not due to the event's content, which was Jewish in nature, relevant to the Hillel community, and had previously been approved by Hillel staff. Rather, it was due to the fact that the event was co-sponsored with the Palestine Solidarity Committee, a Harvard student group that supports the International Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
Most recently, at Binghamton University, a Hillel student leader was asked to resign because, as a leader in a separate, non-Hillel-affiliated group, he had brought a pro-BDS speaker to campus. Thus, these policies have been used not only to restrict the politics of the groups that can work with or be included in Hillel, but also to restrict Hillel students' activities outside of Hillel.
At universities across the country, these rules are excluding people from the Hillel community, shutting down open discourse on Israel within Hillel, and discouraging dialogue between Jewish and Palestinian groups on campus.

Timeline of events

December 2010
Hillel International publishes a list of Guidelines for Campus Israel Activity

March 2011
Brandeis Jewish Voice for Peace attempts to affiliate with Brandeis Hillel, but are denied.

November 2012
5 November: PJA and PSC are asked to relocate the event, "Jewish Voices Against the Israeli Occupation" to a location outside of Harvard Hillel.

12 November: Open Hillel campaign launched with an Open Letter to the Hillel Community.
16 November: Members of Harvard PJA call for “An Open Hillel” in a Harvard Crimson op-ed.
27 November: A Tufts Daily op-ed asks if Hillel is a place “for all Jews.”

December 2012
9 December: Open Hillel posts campaign website and online petition at
17 December: Hillel student leader at Binghamton University ousted for hosting an anti-Israel Palestinian speaker

January 2013
31 January: Open Hillel campaign officially launched.
31 January: The Open Hillel campaign is featured in a front-page story in The Jewish Daily Forward.

May 2013
6 May: Open Hillel delivers 801 petition signatures to the Hillel International Board of Directors in Washington, DC
22 May: J Street U student leaders write an op-ed in JTA endorsing Open Hillel

September 2013
Open Hillel holds its first national campaign meeting in Washington, DC.

October 2013
9 October: UC Berkeley Jewish Student Union votes to deny membership to J Street U

November 2013
11 November: Former Speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg speaks to Harvard students in Quincy House because Harvard Hillel will not host an event co-sponsored with the Palestine Solidarity Committee

No comments:

Post a Comment