FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
JEWISH STUDENTS ASK HILLEL TO END POLITICAL LITMUS TEST
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 openhillel.org, 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 http://harvardpja.blogspot.com, http://www.openhillel.org/, and https://twitter.com/harvardpja.
Contact: Rachel Sandalow-Ash