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


  1. Thank you so much, Rachel and all your friends, for doing what you are doing and for telling us all about it. It is so important to challenge the repression of discussion about Israel and our relationship with it. Keep at it!

    And, by the way, I tweeted this post to 1,000+ followers and posted it to an activist e-mail list here in Canada.

    שבת שלום,


  2. This shows the absurd if not frightening extent to which some people in authority are trying to turn the Diaspora into a dictatorship. Full marks to the Harvard students who refused to bow to such authority and to Avraham Burg for addressing them. Hillel himself would approve!

  3. A sickness pervades the Jewish community, both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Fear is its main symptom, and that fear drives irrational behavior. How does one address such a sickness?

    1. Speak for yourself Michael. Fear is the last thing that keeps Israelis from debating issues. I am not sure what drives the fear to exclude any voice in the so-called diaspora but here in Israel ALL voices are heard regardless if we agree or not.

  4. You may silence the man, but you can never silence his words: read "The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes" (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, paper). Jewish survival means focusing on our future, not mourning our past. We Jews are a vital, giving, and essential part of human civilization.

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  6. Burg represents the kind of diversity accepted in Israel but not tolerated within the US jewish community. Kudos to Harvard PJA for its principled stand on these issues.