Monday, December 22, 2014

Progressive Jewish Alliance Statement of Solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter

We, the Harvard College Progressive Jewish Alliance, condemn the recent grand jury decisions to not indict the police officers responsible for killing Michael Brown and Eric Garner. We condemn the racist police violence that has killed not just Brown and Garner but also Aiyana Stanley Jones, Islan Nettles, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Rekia Boyd, Tamir Rice, Deshwanda Sanchez, and countless others. We are horrified that in the United States, police kill a black person once every twenty-eight hours.

We condemn the many aspects of the American criminal justice system that have given rise to these injustices: an overly militarized police force, minimal police accountability, rampant and unchallenged racism in policing communities. Recent events remind us once again that racism quite literally kills and that the fight for racial justice is far from over.

We stand in solidarity with black student organizers at Harvard who have brought the Harvard community together to say that #BlackLivesMatter and to protest these recent decisions and the systemic problems from which they stem. We were deeply disappointed by the brevity of President Faust’s recent statement, which failed to address the grave and pressing nature of the issue at hand. We call upon Harvard to follow the lead of students of color at this university and lend its institutional power to the fight for racial justice in the Boston area and around the country.

We stand in solidarity with protesters in the Boston area and across the United States who are taking to the streets to demand change. In a world in which “normalcy” consists of white supremacy and systematic state violence inflicted upon communities of color, we applaud efforts to disrupt this normalcy to pressure national, state, and local governments to change their policies and promote racial and economic justice.

We further commend the many individuals and organizations in the Boston Jewish community and the American Jewish community who have taken action to address the issue of racist police violence. We are proud to have signed the Jewish communal letter calling for police accountability and we urge all other Jewish organizations to sign on as well. We are proud to have participated in the national #BlackLivesMatter Chanukah action last week and look forward to participating in similar actions in the future. We urge all Jewish leaders and community members to address this issue through actions as well as words.

Finally, we call upon Harvard Hillel and Hillel International to stand in opposition to racist police violence and in support of recent racial justice protests around the country. As the self-proclaimed Center for Jewish Life on Campus, Hillel must stand in support of black Jewish students, as well as Jewish students of color more generally. Furthermore, as Hillel International seeks to honor historical civil rights struggles and the role that American Jews played in these fights, it must unequivocally affirm this commitment to anti-racism by standing up for racial justice and civil rights today.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Congratulations to the Vassar Jewish Union, the world's second Open Hillel!

Earlier tonight, the Vassar Jewish Union voted to declare their community the world's second Open Hillel! PJA wishes a hearty Mazal Tov to the Vassar Jewish Union, and we hope that many schools will follow. Check out their statement below!

SUMMARY: The Vassar Jewish Union is an Open Hillel: Statement adopted by the Vassar Jewish Union on February, 18th 2014

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY--The Vassar Jewish Union is a Hillel-affiliated student organization that provides a pluralistic space for Jewish life at Vassar. The mission statement of the Vassar Jewish Union calls on us to commit to strengthening our pluralistic Jewish community. We recognize that identification with Israel is not necessarily an integral part of every individual’s Jewish identity. We commit to providing a spiritual and cultural home for Jewish expression in any form.

The Standards of Partnership at Hillel International currently prohibit partnering with, housing, or hosting organizations, groups, or speakers who: “1) Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; 2) Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; 3) Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; and 4) Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.” 

We believe that this policy censors and delegitimizes the diverse range of personal and political opinions held by Jewish students. As a result, organizations such as JStreet and Jewish Voice for Peace have been excluded from campus Hillel organizations, and individual speakers have been barred from addressing students at Hillel chapters around the country. Hillel International advocates identification with Israel as a core element of Jewish life, and a gateway to Jewish identification for students.

We believe that Hillel International’s goal to “inspire every Jewish college student to develop a meaningful and enduring relationship to Israel” does not represent the diverse opinions of young American Jews. We believe that fostering a pluralistic community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be achieved with Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines in place. According to our constitution the VJU is a non-partisan organization and will not advocate any particular political opinions. In the interest of educating and serving the VJU community, however, the VJU will support individual members’ expressions of their own political views, and will seek to represent this diversity with its programming. In that regard, we welcome open discourse concerning Israel, Palestine, and any other relevant and critical issues, and will not exclude on the basis of political opinion.

As an Open Hillel, the Vassar Jewish Union will not endorse any particular political view. The Vassar Jewish Union will not exclude organizations, groups, speakers, individuals, or events on the basis of political opinion. Rather, we seek to represent the diverse views held by our members and to provide a space for meaningful and respectful debate and discussion. This position is in accordance with our desire to enrich our political, spiritual, and cultural lives at Vassar through free and open discourse.