Thursday, December 26, 2013

Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance stands with Swarthmore Hillel

On December 8th, Swarthmore Hillel unanimously decided to become the first Open Hillel. We, the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, applaud Swarthmore Hillel’s resolution to “encourage dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body” on campus.

Hillel International’s “Standards of Partnership” for Israel activities have twice prevented us from co-sponsoring events with the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee in Hillel. We believe that Jewish-Palestinian dialogue is essential to working towards peace and justice in Israel/Palestine, and are saddened that Hillel’s rules have prevented this sort of dialogue from occurring within Jewish spaces on campus. Moreover, we have also seen how, on other campuses, these standards have been used to exclude Jewish students and Jewish student organizations, and we firmly believe that all Jewish students must be equally welcome in Hillel. Ultimately, Hillels and their students can only engage with the full complexity of issues relating to Israel/Palestine in a productive and meaningful way if we allow a full range of political views to be expressed, discussed, and debated. We congratulate Swarthmore Hillel for living up to Hillel’s self-proclaimed mission of being a foundation for Jewish campus life rather than restricting conversations to those whose political views fall within red lines.

Last November, we joined with students around the country to start the Open Hillel campaign, asking Hillel International to remove its Standards of Partnership. Swarthmore’s recent resolution to become an Open Hillel is an enormously positive step towards making the “Center for Jewish Life on Campus” genuinely pluralistic. We hope that Swarthmore is the first of many Open Hillels, and we urge Harvard Hillel to follow Swarthmore Hillel’s lead and adopt a policy that welcomes all voices and allows for co-sponsorship with all groups on campus.

In his letter responding to Swarthmore Hillel’s announcement, Hillel International’s President and CEO Eric Fingerhut quoted our namesake Rabbi Hillel as saying, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” But President Fingerhut neglected to include the remainder of the quote: “And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” If the Jewish community does not listen to dissenting voices within our own community - or to Palestinian voices - are we truly making just decisions or having productive conversations? And if we do not act for change now, then when?

We thank Swarthmore Hillel for their inspiring decision and hope their action encourages Jewish students nationwide to stand up and demand a more inclusive Jewish community on campus.

In solidarity,

Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance
an affiliated group of Harvard Hillel

Please join us in signing the petition in support of Swarthmore Hillel’s decision and the Open Hillel petition to Hillel International.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Open Hillel!

On Sunday night, Swarthmore Hillel declared itself an Open Hillel!

Read their statement, posted online at New Voices and Jewschool! And here's their resolution:

Swarthmore Hillel is an Open Hillel 
Unanimously adopted by Swarthmore Hillel Student Board, December 8, 2013 
Whereas Hillel International prohibits partnering with, hosting, or housing anyone who (a) denies the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders, (b) delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies a double standard to Israel, (c) supports boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; 
And whereas this policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Knesset from speaking at Hillels without censorship, and has resulted in Jewish Voice for Peace not being welcome under the Hillel umbrella; 
And whereas this policy runs counter to the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai; 
And whereas Hillel, while purporting to support all Jewish Campus Life, presents a monolithic face pertaining to Zionism that does not accurately reflect the diverse opinions of young American Jews; 
And whereas Hillel’s statement that Israel is a core element of Jewish life and a gateway to Jewish identification for students does not allow space for others who perceive it as irrelevant to their Judaism; 
And whereas Hillel International’s Israel guidelines privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome; 
And whereas the goals of fostering a diverse community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be met when Hillel International’s guidelines are in place; 
Therefore be it resolved that Swarthmore Hillel declares itself to be an Open Hillel; an organization that supports Jewish life in all its forms; an organization that is a religious and cultural group whose purpose is not to advocate for one single political view, but rather to open up space that encourages dialogue within the diverse and pluralistic Jewish student body and the larger community at Swarthmore; an organization that will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines; and an organization that will always strive to be in keeping with the values of open debate and discourse espoused by Rabbi Hillel. 
Joshua Wolfsun
Swarthmore Hillel Communications Coordinator

Also, this has gotten some wonderful press coverage in The Beacon, the ForwardMondoweiss, Muzzlewatch, and JTA.

Finally, check out this back and forth - latest installment yesterday - between Peter Beinart and Shany More in the New York Review of Books, New Republic, Daily Beast that extensively discusses our Avraham Burg event. If only folks had read our press release, perhaps some of this confusion could have been cleared up?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Congratulations to the PJA Board for 2014!

The Progressive Jewish Alliance is excited to announce our board for the upcoming year. Mazel tov to all!

We look forward to another great year of things that are progressive, Jewish, and allied.

Progressive Jewish Alliance Board 2014
Elena Hoffenberg '16, Chair
Ann Finkel '15, Vice-Chair for Israel/Palestine
Joshua Blecher-Cohen '16, Vice-Chair for Programming and Parliamentarian
Justin Szasz '17, Vice-Chair for Campus Outreach
Shai Szulanski '17, Vice-Chair for Corporate Responsibility
Nancy Ko '17, Vice-Chair for Finances
Miriam Rich (GSAS), Grad Student Liaison
Sam Wohns '14, Member-at-Large
Rachel Sandalow-Ash '15, Chair Emerita
Allison Gofman '14, Vice-Chair Emerita for Holidays
Sandra Korn '14, Vice-Chair Emerita for Education

Friday, November 22, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Burg Barred from Speaking at Harvard Hillel

PRESS RELEASE: Israeli Politician Avraham Burg Barred from Speaking at Harvard Hillel

November 20, 2013, Cambridge, MA— Avraham Burg, the former speaker of Israel's Knesset, spoke in an undergraduate dormitory at Harvard College last week after being barred from speaking at Harvard Hillel.

"It's such a shame that Harvard Hillel would not allow an open discussion about Israel to take place within its walls," said Sandra Korn '14, who helped organize the talk. "Hillel should be a space for students to engage with Jewish issues, regardless of religious or political beliefs."

Burg was allowed to attend an invitation-only dinner in the Hillel building, but was forbidden from hosting the event there since it was co-sponsored by the Harvard College Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The other co-sponsoring student groups included J Street U Harvard and two Hillel-affiliated groups, Harvard Students for Israel and Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance. The event took place in the Quincy House Junior Common Room instead.

"This is an attack on free speech in its most naked form," said Ann Finkel '15, a Harvard student who attended the event. "I'm not sure what they were afraid of - people with all kinds of political views had a very constructive conversation with Mr. Burg."

CONTACT: Rachel Sandalow-Ash
(617) 417-0481

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thanksgivukkah through a Critical Lens: Discussion and Dessert

Thanksgiving! Hanukkah! Discussion! Dessert!
What more could you want in an evening, really?
Wednesday, November 20th, 8:00-9:30pm. Rabb Hall, Harvard Hillel 

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In honor of this year's rare convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, join the Progressive Jewish Alliance for a discussion about what these holidays mean for Jewish identity, oppression and justice in the United States and Israel/Palestine.

Find out more and RSVP on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

EVENT: The Soldier and the Refusnik

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The Soldier and the Refusenik
Harvard Hall 201
Wednesday, November 13th, 6-7:30

Come hear Eran Efrati, a former IDF soldier, and Maya Wind, an Israeli activist imprisoned for her conscientious objection to military service, as they share their thoughts and personal experiences on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Visit their website at for more details. 

Sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Harvard Law School Justice for Palestine and Harvard Divinity School Connect with Palestine

Monday, November 11, 2013

EVENT: Open Conversation on Israel with Avraham Burg

An Open Conversation on Israel with Avraham Burg
Monday, November 11
6:30-8pm Quincy House JCR 

talk and Q&A with former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and author of The Holocaust is Over

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This conversation will happen just a day before Burg gives the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at the Weatherhead Center, entitled "Israel and Palestine: From Iconic Conflict to Iconic Solution or, Is It Time for New Paradigms?"

Avraham Burg is an Israeli author, social activist, former politician, and a leading voice for peace in the Middle East. He was an adviser to Prime Minister Shimon Peres on diaspora affairs; speaker for the Israeli Knesset from 1999 to 2003; chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel; cofounder of Molad, a progressive think-tank dedicated to the advancement of Israeli democracy; chairman of Mifalot, a sport -for-peace project; an international coordinator of the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna; and a teacher at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.

His bestselling book, The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from Its Ashes, delineates a path for the Jewish people to come to live in greater peace and security in the Middle East and in the world. Hosted by: Progressive Jewish Alliance, Palestine Solidarity Committee, Harvard Students for Israel, and J Street U Harvard

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

EVENT: Advancing Peace through Environmental Research

Nature Knows No Borders: Advancing Peace through Environmental Research in the Middle East

Come hear graduate student Leila Hashweh share her experiences as a Palestinian environmentalist working for water restoration in Israel-Palestine

Sunday, October 27th

Cosponsored by Harvard’s Progressive Jewish Alliance, J Street U Harvard, the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and The New Israel Fund

Monday, October 14, 2013

EVENT: Our Harsh Logic

The Progressive Jewish Alliance, J Street U Harvard, Friends of Breaking the Silence, and the New Israel Fund New Generation present:

Our Harsh Logic: Israeli Soldiers' Testimonials from the Occupied Territories
Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.

Harvard Hillel
Tuesday October 15th
RSVP on Facebook!

Avner Gvaryahu from Breaking the Silence will speak about the book "Our Harsh Logic," a collection of testimonies by soldiers who served in the occupied territories. Professor Gabriella Blum, Rita E. Hauser Professor of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law at Harvard Law School, will deliver introductory remarks. Question and answer session to follow.

"....they said to me, 'it doesn't matter. They took six of ours, we are going to take six back." (IDF soldier, testimony 36)

Friday, October 4, 2013

PJA boycotts Insomnia Cookies

PJA has pledged to boycott Insomnia Cookies until they settle all outstanding labor disputes. According to the Student Labor Action Movement:
At Insomnia, "drivers" were paid only $5 an hour plus tips, riding their own bikes, and still weren't making minimum wage. On deliveries, they were also pressured to minimize delivery time, which led to unsafe biking conditions. Bakers, who were paid $9 an hour, were doing double duty as bakers and cashiers, and were not being paid accordingly. Workers also noted that they weren't always allowed their legally mandated break time and a general lack of respect for workers in the store. 
In response, at 12:00 am on Sunday, August 18, the night shift at the Harvard Square Insomnia Cookies voted to initiate a strike for higher wages, healthcare, better job stability, and freedom to build a union. 
As Insomnia's target market, we as college students have an important role to play in this struggle. By choosing not to buy from Insomnia Cookies, we can put pressure on management to give its workers the power they deserve. Our actions have consequences, and there is no neutral ground here. 
Your organization can also sign to boycott using this form:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tie-Dye in the Sukkah!

 Want to let our your inner hippie? 
 Getting tired of having plain white socks? 
 Want your clothes to look progressive AND Jewish? 
Come tie-dye with PJA!
When: Sunday, September 22nd, from 3-5 pm
Where: The sukkah in the Hillel courtyard, 52 Mt. Auburn St.

We'll have ties, dye, instructions, and snacks!  The first ten people to come get a free PJA t-shirt, plus you can bring your own clothes to dye.

Sponsored by the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance
For more information, contact Ann at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

J Street U student leaders endorse Open Hillel

Simone Zimmerman, UC Berkeley '13 and president of J Street U, and Alexander Rofes, Brown '13 and a student representative on Hillel's board, wrote an op-ed in JTA yesterday in which they explained the importance of Open Hillel's call.

They wrote:

Too many of our friends left Hillel because they felt alienated and stifled in raising questions or voicing their views on Israel. Too many have opted to disengage entirely rather than conforming to a community that tells them they do not fully belong.
As many Jewish organizations frantically try to attract more young Jews into their buildings, it is counterproductive, counterintuitive and, frankly, un-Jewish to deny full participation to any Jews simply because of their political beliefs.
If Hillel fails to make political pluralism a priority, we fear the ominous vision some have about the Jewish community’s future will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those alienated will choose to build their families and communities outside of what they see as outmoded institutions or, worse, simply check out of Judaism entirely. This is not a price anyone who cares about Hillel and Jewish life on campus should be willing to pay.

You can read the rest of their article here:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

NUJLS and Jewish Voice for Peace conferences!

The weekend of April 19-21 is a big one for Jewish conferences!

NUJLS (the National Union of Jewish Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and Intersex Students) is holding its 2013 conference at Rutgers Hillel in New Jersey. Registration closes on April 12th, and you can register at

Jewish Voice for Peace is also holding its National Members' Meeting the same weekend, in Berkeley, California! You can register at, and student scholarships are available for travel and registration. If you're concerned you won't get enough queerness at the JVP conference, though, don't worry -- you can join me at the "Resisting Pinkwashing and War Culture: Critical queer and feminist politics in action" workshop on Sunday!

EVENT: Ethical Kashrut with Uri L'Tzedek

Ethical Kashrut: Uri L'Tzedek

What if keeping kosher were not just a matter of ritual purity, but of justice in the workplace as well?  Rabbi Smuly Yanklowitz, the founder and president of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L'Tzedek, will speak about the Tav HaYosher initiative, which certifies kosher resturants on the basis of their labor standards.
Tuesday, 4/9: 7pm-8:30pm in Rabb Hall

Co-sponsored by Progressive Jewish Alliance and the Orthodox Student Minyan 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Progressive Passover Seder!

On Tuesday, PJA celebrated Passover with our annual Progressive Passover seder.  The PJA seder takes the Passover tradition and the story of the Exodus and expands them to discuss modern-day issues of oppression and liberation.

A reading from the PJA haggadah to reflect on during Passover:

"Dayenu," says the haggadah, "it would have been enough."  A rewriting of this tradition from the Freedom Seder, held on the first anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, identifies the insufficiencies in the world and calls us to act.

So the struggles for freedom that remain will be more dark and difficult than any we have met so far. For we must struggle for a freedom that enfolds stern justice, stern bravery, and stern love.

For if we were to end a single genocide but not to stop the other wars that kill men and women as we sit here, it would not be sufficient;
If we were to end those bloody wars but not disarm the nations of the weapons that could destroy all mankind, it would not be sufficient;
If we were to disarm the nations but not to end the brutality with which the police attack people it would not be sufficient;
If we were to end outright police brutality but not prevent some people from wallowing in luxury while others starved, it would not be sufficient;
If we were to make sure that no one starved but were not to free the daring poets from their jails, it would not be sufficient;
If we were to free the poets from their jails but to train the minds of people so that they could not understand the poets, it would not be sufficient;
If we educated all men and women to understand the free creative poets but forbade them to explore their own inner ecstasies, it would not be sufficient;
If we allowed men and women to explore their inner ecstasies but would not allow them to love one another and share in the human fraternity, it would not be sufficient.

How much then are we in duty bound to struggle, work, share, give, think, plan, feel, organize, sit-in, speak out, hope, and be on behalf of Mankind!

-Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 1969

Friday, March 22, 2013

Criticism of Israel is Not Anti-Semitic

Over the past week, a dangerous rumor has circulated accusing the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) of targeting Jewish students in its campaign to raise awareness about the demolition of Palestinian homes. We, the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, strongly refute these lies and affirm that Jewish students were not targeted. While we do not endorse PSC’s campaign, we support their right to draw attention to problematic Israeli policies and believe that flyering is a legitimate and reasonable way to do so.

As part of Harvard Israeli Apartheid Week, PSC flyered student dorms with mock eviction notices in order to raise awareness about the demolition of Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories. Such flyering is a common means of advertising and campaigning utilized by a wide variety of student organizations. PSC placed these notices on all suite doors in any given dormitory. However, in response to these flyers, several publications began circulating the falsehood that PSC specifically targeted Jewish students in its campaign. This claim is completely wrong, and it is clear to students who live in the dorms that Jewish students were not targeted.

Moreover, several publications have accused PSC of employing anti-Semitic rhetoric in its campaign. These claims are baseless; as PSC
affirms in a public statement on its website, these accusations “conflate [PSC’s] criticism of Israeli human rights violations with hatred of the Jewish people.” Indeed, in its mission, PSC “condemn[s] any hatred or discrimination against any racial, ethnic, or religious group." Anti-Semitism is a serious problem, and these claims minimize the seriousness of real anti-Semitism as well slander and harm the falsely accused. 

We condemn all organizations and publications both within and outside Harvard that continue to spread lies about PSC, and we ask them to immediately publish corrections stating that PSC did not target Jewish students or engage in other anti-Semitic behavior. In light of the anti-Semitic and racist incidents at Oberlin College over the past month, we hope that individuals and organizations devoted to fighting anti-Semitism will not diminish the significance of true anti-Semitism by branding criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

EVENT: Israeli Democracy after the Elections with the NIF

The Progressive Jewish Alliance is excited to co-sponsor a discussion on "The Left, the Right, and the Center: Israeli Democracy after the Elections" with the New Israel Fund, an organization promoting social justice in Israel. This event will be held on Sunday at 7pm in Beren Hall (2nd floor of Hillel), and you can RSVP here. We hope to see you there!

The Left, the Right, and the Center:
Israeli Democracy after the Elections
A discussion with Dr. Sara Hirschhorn
Please join us for learning, schmoozing and conversation as Dr. Sara Hirschhorn leads us through an overview of the political scene in Israel.  Who are Israel's left wing and right wing, and what do they want?  What is their understanding of religion, democracy and the rule of law in Israel?  What do the results of Israel’s recent election tell us about the priorities of Israel's citizens, and what do they suggest about the future?
Sunday, February 10, 2012
7:00 - 8:30 pm
Doors open at 6:45, program to begin by 7:05
Harvard Hillel, Beren Hall
Dr. Sara Hirschhorn was born and raised in Western Massachusetts while spending considerable amounts of time in Israel throughout her childhood.  She graduated with honors from Yale University and received her M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of Chicago.  Sara recently earned her doctorate in History at the University of Chicago, where she wrote her dissertation entitled “City on a Hilltop: The participation of Jewish-American Immigrants within the Israeli Settler Movement, 1967-1987.”  Sara is currently a postdoctoral fellowship at the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, where her research focuses on the Israeli ultra-nationalist movement, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the relationship between the U.S./American Jewry and Israel.  She is also a regular op-ed contributor to HaaretzThe Times of Israel, and the Israeli conflict resolution webzine Efshar Lahshov (CanThink).
New Israel Fund: New Generations is an open and vibrant community of young professionals, social activists, community leaders, and others in their 20s and 30s who are committed to the work of the New Israel Fund, the leading organization promoting social justice and equality for all Israelis. New Gen provides an opportunity to learn about and engage with the most important issues facing Israel today through lectures, group discussions, and social events.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Open Hillel in the Jewish Daily Forward

The Jewish Daily Forward has picked up on our Open Hillel campaign!  Here's the full article:

Students Protest Hillel’s BDS Ban

Harvard Jewish Students Launch National and Campus Petitions

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published January 31, 2013.

A Harvard Jewish student group has launched a national protest of Hillel rules barring partnerships with groups that back boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
Local campus Hillels have cited the rules in recent decisions to cancel events, deny recognition to student groups, and, in one case, to expel a student from Hillel leadership.
The clash comes as national Jewish organizations continue to devote substantial resources to opposing BDS on campus. The Harvard students’ effort, which officially launches February 4, could represent a significant student-led challenge to their approach.
Harvard Hillel
Harvard Hillel
“At Harvard, the Palestinian community is willing to have dialogue, and it saddens me to see Hillel as the roadblock to that,” said Emily Unger, a Harvard senior and a former chair of Harvard’s Progressive Jewish Alliance, the group organizing the campaign.
Harvard’s Progressive Jewish Alliance alleges that Hillel’s Israel guidelines stifle discourse. Harvard’s Hillel, which has circulated a response to the petition, says that they only block institutional support, not conversation.
“I firmly believe that there is a very important distinction to be drawn between allowing and fostering dialogue, on the one hand, and underwriting and supporting institutional partnerships, on the other,” Harvard Hilllel executive director Jonah Steinberg wrote in an email to his Hilllel’s board in response to the petition. “That does not mean that we should exclude from Harvard Hillel, or brand as traitorous, the very committed Jewish young people who seek meaningful interactions with their Palestinian and pro-Palestinan counterparts.”
A spokeswoman for Hillel’s Washington, D.C. headquarters did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Forward.
The Harvard students’ campaign consists of two online petitions on a website built especially for their campaign. One, open to all signatories, opposes the guidelines on Israel discourse promulgated by Hillel’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.; another, for Harvard students, opposes Harvard Hillel’s implementation of those guidelines.
Hillel headquarters first published the Israel guidelines in 2010. The rules bar Hillels from partnering with organizations or hosting speakers that support BDS. Other categories barred from partnership are vaguer, including those that “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.”
National Hillel does not require campus Hillels to adopt the same rules, but encourages them to create guidelines that are “consistent” with those rules.
Local versions of the rules have been cited in a handful of recent cases in campus Hillels have banned individuals or groups.
In December, the Hillel at Binghamton University asked a student to resign from volunteer positions he held with the campus Hillel board after he organized a screening of “5 Broken Cameras,” the Oscar-nominated documentary about Palestinian non-violent resistance. A brother of one of the documentary’s directors, who is Palestinian and supports BDS, spoke at the screening.
“It goes without saying an [executive board] member of ours can’t bring a speaker like that,” a Hillel student leader told Pipe Dream, the Binghampton campus newspaper in explaining why the student was asked to resign his Hillel roles.
At Harvard in November, Steinberg cancelled a Progressive Jewish Alliance event scheduled to be held at the Hillel after learning that a student group called the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which backs BDS, would be a co-sponsor.
Unger, the Progressive Jewish Alliance member, said that the experience with the cancelled event had spurred her organization to initiate the campaign against the national guidelines. “We were really very disappointed about this, because we thought it was a great opportunity for cooperation,” Unger said. “That’s why we are waging this campaign, to try to make Hillel a community that is open to everyone, regardless of their political views.”
The petitions already appears to be attracting broader interest. Activists affiliated with Jewish Voice for Peace, a national Jewish activist group harshly critical of Israel, have circulated the website on which the petition are posted, and 105 people have signed the petition to Hillel’s D.C. headquarters.
For Unger and her organization, the effort is in part about building student influence in Hillel decision-making. “We want to make it more accountable to the student body,” Unger said.

Read more:

Press Release: PJA Launches Open Hillel Campaign


Students at Harvard Hillel and campuses across the United States have begun a petition asking Hillel International to remove its Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities, which they say pose a political litmus test for who can belong to the campus Jewish community.

The petition, launched Thursday as part of the Open Hillel campaign on, has already garnered over one hundred signatures.

The petition states, “we believe that campus Hillels should acknowledge and engage with a full spectrum of political views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We see cooperation with Palestinian groups on and off campus as an essential step towards peace. Furthermore, if Hillel truly wants to be ‘The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life,’ it cannot exclude Jewish groups simply for their political beliefs.”

Hillel International currently posts
 guidelines which state, "Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice... support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel." The guidelines also include other restrictions on the political views of those who may affiliate with a campus Hillel.

“Hillel should be a place for the entire Jewish community, and a space to have the difficult discussions surrounding Israel and Palestine,” says Elena Hoffenberg, a first-year at Harvard and board member of the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA). “It’s especially valuable to have those discussions in Hillel as it is representative of viewpoints held in the Jewish community.”

Students in PJA, an affiliated group of Harvard Hillel, say they first learned of Hillel International’s Guidelines for Campus Israel Activity when they tried to co-sponsor an event called “Jewish Voices on the Occupation” with the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC). PJA was told that the event could not take place in Harvard Hillel because PSC supports the Palestinian call for international boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions on Israel.

And two years ago, the Brandeis chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace was denied affiliation with Brandeis Hillel because of the same guidelines, put in place in December 2010.

“College campuses are a wonderful place for people from different backgrounds to come together in dialogue and cooperation,” says Emily Unger, a senior at Harvard and former chair of PJA. “Hillel is my community, and I want its policies to fully uphold its values of pluralism and support an environment in which these important conversations can take place.”


Please find more information and updates on Open Hillel online at,, and

Contact: Rachel Sandalow-Ash
Cell: 617-417-0481

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Tu B'Shevat, all!

It's a bit past Tu B'Shevat, but we had a lovely Tu B'Shevat seder with Students for a Just and Stable Future (and other friends!).

Our seder focused on four themes: Jewish social justice teachings on environmentalism, including ecokashrut; environmental justice, including the work done by Alternatives for Community and Environment in Roxbury; the role of trees in Palestinian justice, including the implications of the JNF; and the action of campus divestment activists against fossil fuels, like those in SJSF at Harvard.

If you're interested in a copy of the entire haggadah, please email us and we will send it on. Here is the introduction to our haggadah:

Maimonides reminds us, “In order to serve God, one needs access to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature—meadows full of flowers, majestic mountains, flowing rivers. For all these are essential to the spiritual development of even the holiest of people.”

The origin of Tu B’Shvat in the Torah was a time for renewal of our commitment to God and sharing of the yield of the land with the poor. Today we celebrate Tu B’Shvat also for renewal of our commitment to serve and protect the trees and all of God’s creation. As those who care about justice and preservation, not only for nature but for all peoples that inhabit this world, we have adapted this Tu B’Shvat seder so that we make take this time to consider and reconsider our interactions with trees, with nature, and with the environment—and how those interactions may and do shape the lives of those around us.

The Tu B’Shvat seder is arranged around the Four Worlds: Atzilut, the world of emanation; Briyah, the world of creation; Yetzirah, the world of formation; and Assiyah, the world of action. Each of the worlds also symbolizes a season: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. In this seder, during each of the four worlds, we will drink another glass of wine and eat symbolic fruits. At the same time, during each of the four worlds, we will consider another way in which we may reflect on justice this Tu B’Shvat: first, Jewish social justice teachings about nature; second, environmental justice in our own Boston community; third, the role of trees in promoting injustices in Israel and Palestine; and finally, the actions of students taken to combat climate change.

We hope that these readings will inspire us, as young people, to think about our own role in perpetuating, critiquing, halting, and reversing the destructive processes of environmental injustice, climate destruction, and displacement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tu B'Shvat seder tomorrow!

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Join the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance and Students for a Just and Stable Future as we celebrate the new year of the trees and explore our spiritual connections to each other and to the earth!
Featuring traditional foods and engaging readings that explore the Jewish commitment to sustaining and renewing the environment.
Come enjoy wine, figs, dates, almonds, pomegranates, and other delicious fruits of the earth!

Wednesday, January 30th from 6-7 pm in the Hillel lounge.

For more information, please contact

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sign up for Rodef Shalom course!

The Progressive Jewish Alliance is proud to host a 5-part course through the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies called "The Rodef Shalom," looking at both traditional Jewish texts and modern texts on conflict resolution. The course will be taught by rabbinical student (and former Reform minyan adviser) Alana Alpert.

The rodef shalom is an ancient Jewish rabbinic model of a peacemaker, pursuing peace between individuals, families and communities. Throughout Jewish history there were people known in their communities as rodfei shalom (pursuers of peace) or mitavchei shalom (peace-brokers) who acted as the students of Aaron loving peace and pursuing peace.

This course seeks to transform participants into being rodfei shalom, students of Aaron: loving peace, loving people and pursuing peace between individuals, families, communities and nations. We will attempt to do this through the study of Torah, conflict resolution theories, group discussions, and guest speakers. The course consists of six main themes: (1) "Be of the Students of Aaron Rodef Shalom"; (2) The Identity and Methods of the Rodef Shalom; (3) The Rodef Shalom and the Transformation of Conflicts from Destructive to Constructive; (4) The Rodef Shalom who turns Enemies into Friends; (5) The Rodef Shalom who Facilitates Direct Dialogue; (6) Ethical Dilemmas of the Rodef Shalom.

The course will be taught in 5 sessions, on Thursday evenings from 7-9pm, on the following days: February 7, 14, 21, 28, and March 7. It is open to 8-12 people. Ordinarily, the course costs $36, but PJA is subsidizing the cost so that students only need to pay $10. If the cost would prevent you from taking the class, please contact and we will work something out.

You can sign-up here, online!