The Conspiracy

Bloggers’ Round Table: Should Brandeis Hillel exclude JVP? (Captain Picard says no)

http://newvoices.org/2011/03/15/bloggers-round-table-should-brandeis-at-hillel-exclude-jvp-captain-picard-says-no/

The Bloggers’ Round Table is a new (potentially) weekly feature we’re trying out at New Voices. We e-mailed all of our bloggers a question. And here are some of their answers.

Much to the consternation of some, Hillel at Brandeis voted not to bring the Brandeis chapter of the pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group Jewish Voice for Peace under Hillel’s umbrella. New Voices Editor Ben Sales weighed in here. And the JTA covered the story in some depth here, including an interview with Ben:

“If Hillel wants to be the Israel advocacy organization on campus that also provides a wealth of other programming for Jewish students, that’s fine,” Sales said, “but then it’s inaccurate to call itself the center for Jewish life while excluding a group of Jewish students who do not support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state but who are not violent or discriminatory, and who ground their positions in Jewish values.”

Here’s what Ben and I have to say about the issue. In a video. This is new for us. Nobody laugh, OK? (We promise we’ll time ourselves and be less long-winded next time.)

Bloggers’ Roundtable: Brandeis Hillel and JVP from New Voices Magazine on Vimeo.

(Oh God. As I’m writing this, Ben is watching the video. We promise to use an actual outline for this next time too.)

Now that we know where we stand, let’s see what other New Voices student bloggers have to say–it’s more diverse than I thought it would be. And one of them quotes Captain Picard. Check out the video below and then keep reading to see what it had to do with Max Elstein Keisler’s opinion on this. The relevant piece of dialog appears about 1:30 in the video.

Read more…

El Weiss: Students who support BDS can join other organizations. What do they need Hillel for?

“Campus can be a hostile place for Zionist students and therefore, I think it’s important for Hillel to provide a safe space for Jewish students who identify as Zionists. Yet, there is no requirement that anyone individually be a Zionist to join Hillel. There is no litmus test to participate in Shabbat services, volunteer projects or in any other activities of Hillel. There is no reason why students who are pro-BDS should feel left out, they are free to join as individuals. But just as Hillel has a right to bar Jews for Jesus from joining officially, they have a right to set their own agenda on Israel. BDS supporting students can join many clubs to promote their agenda. Why must they also have Hillel?”

Alisha Kinman: Hillel should exclude those who disagree with Hillel’s mission.

I think that Hillel not welcoming JVP is not a bad thing. Just like every other organization, Hillel has a reputation to uphold. Just like JVP has a reputation as well. Hillel may act as a hub for everyone in the Jewish community but if a form of judaism infringes on Hillel’s mission then I suppose they shouldn’t be welcome.

Harpo Jaeger: If Hillel says in its mission–as it does–that it’s pluralistic, then it should own that word and live up to it.

If, as Hillel’s mission statement says, it is “dedicated to creating a pluralistic, welcoming and inclusive environment for Jewish college students, where they are encouraged to grow intellectually, spiritually and socially,” it cannot continue using Israel as an intellectual purity test. Regardless of its desire to promote student support for Israel, Hillel must recognize that making enemies of Jewish students who don’t fall into step behind its platform is counterproductive and wrong. Every voice deserves to be heard.

Jenna Cohen: What’s wrong with cosponsoring events on campus?

Not allowing Jewish Voice for Peace to become a part of Hillel is certainly a heavy issue. If it was decided not to have them be a part of Hillel, I’m sure there was a legitimate reason. However, I see no problem with them being a presence on the Brandeis campus that perhaps joins with Hillel on occasion to invite speakers and have friendly events.

Max Elstein Keisler: To quote Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the line must be drawn somewhere.

Just because Jews are Jews, doesn’t mean they aren’t Anti-Jew. Look at Gilad Atzmon, or, dare I say it, George Soros. You can be born Jewish and have no attachment to the culture or the people, in fact, you can dislike the Jewish people. I’m not saying JVP is anti-Jew, but they’re anti-Israel, which is where around half the Jews of the world live. Hillel has every right to draw the line somewhere,  to paraphrase Jean-Luc Picard [Editorial clarification: The quote is actually, “The line must be drawn here! This far and no further!”], and supporting BDS, which is about delegitimizing the Jewish state, is a fine place to draw it.

I’m not sure the real quote from Picard actually backs up what Max is saying, but you get his point.

What do you think about the JVP and Hillel at Brandeis?

15 Older Responses to “Bloggers’ Round Table: Should Brandeis Hillel exclude JVP? (Captain Picard says no)”

  1. Yakov Wolf
    March 16, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    I attended the JVP Member Meeting this weekend in Philly and got to meet, hang out with, have a drink with, and talk to the members of Brandeis JVP and know that they are deeply committed to Jewish values and I believe they deserve a formal place in Brandeis Hillel; and I met a few Hillel student leaders from around the country there who deeply believed the same, as well. Just like Harpo Jaeger, I think Hillel has to live up to the word “pluralistic” if they want to toss that word around.

    Let me give an example; The student-run Hillel at my campus claimed to be pluralistic. Yet, at every event they tacked to the Orthodox perspective. At a discussion about the “Jewish” reaction to GBLT rights–at the height of the rash of GBLT suicides last year–a press release by a group of Orthodox rabbis that laid out the Modern Orthodox view of homosexuality was read out loud verbatim. When I pointed out that such a group does not represent ALL Jews, it was suggested that I give the Reform perspective, and it was left to me to look frantically on my iphone to find some sort of document from the URJ about homosexuality. Another time, an MO rabbi was brought in to lead Torah study; and the only off-campus shabbat that was advertised was Chabad’s.

    The point is that Hillel, by telling me that I was free to come to all these events, and was free to bring all my non-Orthodox, Reform, Reconstructionist, and secular friends to these strictly Orthodox-oriented events, was not being truly “pluralistic”; that’s just the Frummest Common Denominator. I’ve had a few meetings with my campus Hillel and they’ve agreed to work on their pluralism. Which is great; but that work shouldn’t solely be on denominational matters–for many Jews, Judaism extends into every corner of their lives, including politics and geopolitical worldviews.

    Certainly, Hillel has the right to reject anyone from their walls; nobody’s denying them that right. But what they can’t do is reject a Jewish worldview–and Brandeis JVP’s worldview, couched in and deeply embedded with Jewish ethics and values, certainly falls under that category–and call that Being Pluralistic.

    Let’s say Meretz, a Zionist group with established Zionist credentials, started a student group at Brandeis; would Hillel ban them?

  2. Harpo Jaeger
    March 16, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Well put, Yakov.

  3. walt kovacs
    March 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    the only thing jewish about the jvp is their name.

    committed to jewish values? give me a break

    for years, they chose to seperate themselves from the rest of the jewish community, by their actions, deeds and words.

    now they want a place at the table?

    hell no

    their is a group that would gladly take the jvp…its called the msu

    jvp wants to be dhimmi? go practice

  4. Yakov Wolf
    March 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Hey Walt,

    Perhaps you’ve had a different relationship with JVP members in your area than I have had. But it seems very much like you are treating JVP as one huge monolithic entity which really it is not. It’s a local chapter-based movement and while the National JVP initiates campaigns, its very much up to the local chapters to decide how they run and what they do.

    Such a diverse group includes a diverse set of worldviews and even within chapters diverse individual identities. There are Jews ranging from completely secular to deeply religious participating in this movement–‘I’ve talked with a number of JVP members who are completely Shomer Shabbos; I talked to members who work with and are even leaders within their campus Hillels, and many if not most of them have spent a lot of time in Israel, including some who lived there for much of their lives, and this includes Rabbis and Cantors. The fact is, the membership of JVP already HAVE a place at the table. And to say that “THEY seperate themselves” from the Jewish community is just not true.

    What’s at issue is whether Hillel wants to recognize the plurality that JVP represents.

  5. Elle Weiss
    March 16, 2011 at 8:23 pm #

    My question is why does JVP want to join a Zionist oranization like Hillel, whose motto is “Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel.”

  6. walt kovacs
    March 16, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    yakov,

    give me a break.

    i have seen many protests from jvp. they are very good at posting them on youtube.

    never seen anyone wearing a kipa. never heard a word of torah.

    the only allegedly frum person that speaks up for the jvp, blogs under the name of jerry haber. and not even he has made such a claim

    not that this matters, as jews from conservative, reform and secular backgrounds are accepted under the hillel umbrella.

    but none of the groups, under the hillel umbrella, goes out of their way to attack other jews who do not believe as they do….unlike jvp.

    by the groups action, by their words and by their deeds, they have chosen not to be part of the community.

    the brandeis jvp did not, nor will they disavow any of these actions, words or deeds.

    therefore…they have no place at the communal table

    but have the brandeis jvp prove me wrong.

    have them stand up and formally disavow the behavior of other jvp groups.

    i wont hold my breath

    btw…al taquiah is a muslim halacha….jews should not practice it…ok?

  7. Harpo Jaeger
    March 16, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    Walt: for years, they chose to seperate themselves from the rest of the jewish community, by their actions, deeds and words.
    This argument really gets to me. JVP didn’t “separate themselves” from the community. The community has (and as Walt’s statement reflects, still does) rejected them. Walt, you’re basically saying “They separated themselves by holding opinions that we don’t accept.” You’re the one drawing the line. They’re just stating their beliefs. Those beliefs have every bit as much of a right to be heard as yours.
    Elle: My question is why does JVP want to join a Zionist oranization like Hillel, whose motto is “Wherever we stand, we stand with Israel.”
    Perhaps because they value working with organizations they disagree with? Something that mainstream Jewish organizations (like Hillel in many cases, although there are absolutely exceptions) have yet to institutionally support.
    Walt: never seen anyone wearing a kipa. never heard a word of torah.
    You don’t have the right to judge JVP members’ “Jewishness” based on your own standards.
    but none of the groups, under the hillel umbrella, goes out of their way to attack other jews who do not believe as they do….unlike jvp.
    There’s only one person here attacking others who do not believe as you do. (Hint: it’s not JVP).
    by the groups action, by their words and by their deeds, they have chosen not to be part of the community.
    Again, Walt, it’s people exactly like you who make JVP folks feel unwelcome, by deriding their motivations, knowledge, and commitment. No wonder they don’t get involved.
    the brandeis jvp did not, nor will they disavow any of these actions, words or deeds.
    See BZ’s comment on an old Jewschool post of mine – asking any group to denounce whatever actions you consider unpalatable as a prerequisite for inclusion in a community or conversation is ridiculous.
    have them stand up and formally disavow the behavior of other jvp groups.
    More to the point, why should they? Just because you find some of what they’ve done distasteful doesn’t negate their right to be part of an institution that describes itself as a pluralistic home intended to build Jewish community.

  8. Elle Weiss
    March 16, 2011 at 11:46 pm #

    “Perhaps because they value working with organizations they disagree with? Something that mainstream Jewish organizations (like Hillel in many cases, although there are absolutely exceptions) have yet to institutionally support.”

    Do they truly want to work with organizations they disagree with, or are they seeking to make Hillel a place that is no longer Zionist? This is beyond disagreement, this is mission statement of both groups.

    Hillel is a Zionist organization. It was founded as such, and Hillel endorsing JVP (a group that isn’t Zionist and has been accused of being anti-Zionist) is like Chabad embracing Jews for Jesus. They have diametrically opposite goals.

  9. Alex Howie
    March 17, 2011 at 1:13 am #

    Here was my response to the question, which I failed to submit on time:

    I am in support of the decision that Hillel at Brandeis has made to bar Jewish Voices for Peace from becoming a member organization of Hillel. The differences between Zionist organizations and JVP is too much to contain under one roof. Any organization that takes a stance of boycott and divestment from Israeli products, I believe, has crossed over the pro-Israel line. That said, I still feel that Hillel, Jewish, and pro-Israel organizations should engage in dialogue with JVP for intellectual enrichment of all sides.

    One of the biggest issues to consider, on a larger scale, is that very severe human rights violations are occurring throughout the Middle East — women, homosexuals, and random people are beaten and tortured and no one speaks out against these acts. Instead, Israel is criticized for building homes for an expanding population on land with questionable ownership status. The media attention of these issues seems hypocritical to me and JVP does not help this imbalance.

  10. Yakov Wolf
    March 17, 2011 at 4:43 am #

    @ Walt

    “but none of the groups, under the hillel umbrella, goes out of their way to attack other jews who do not believe as they do….unlike jvp. ”

    Do you have any evidence of JVP attacking Jews at all? Much less attacking Jews for not agreeing with them? I’m certain you don’t. However, there’s plenty of evidence of other Jewish groups that seem to be doing the threatening and attacking , with JVP as their target.

    @ Elle:

    There are Zionists among the JVP membership, yes, as Walt pointed out, including Israeli-American Jerry Haber, who is an advocate of the Zionist thought of Judah Magnes–the first prominent Reform Zionist rabbi and founder, and founder / first Chancellor of Hebrew University. JVP’s platform is not Pro, Non, nor Anti-Zionist; it’s focus is on the occupation. Many JVP members, including myself, support and defend the existence of the State of Israel–but don’t believe that the “Jewish” part should trump the “Democratic” parts of the “Jewish & Democratic State” project.

    “Do they truly want to work with organizations they disagree with, or are they seeking to make Hillel a place that is no longer Zionist?”

    Do you really think that working with JVP would really wipe out the Zionist identity of Hillel? Do you think that JVP is so influential that thousands of Jewish college students would suddenly wake up one morning and not be Zionists all of a sudden just because JVP is recognized as a part of the Jewish communal table? You must give JVP a whole lot more credit and influence than even I do!

    @ Alex

    “Any organization that takes a stance of boycott and divestment from Israeli products, I believe, has crossed over the pro-Israel line.”

    So are you in favor of banning Progressive Zionist group Meretz USA from the communal Jewish table? Perhaps you would also want to ban J Street U for coming to the defense of JVP? In fact, why stop there, maybe Hillel should publicly denounce Bernard Avishai for supporting a targeted boycott of settlement products and an Academic boycott of Ariel’s colleges, and just for good measure, let’s take away the Israeli citizenship of the Israeli artists who refuse to perform in the cultural center in Ariel, because, really, just because they were born in, live and work in Israel doesn’t mean they are Pro-Israel enough for the Jewish communal table, right?

    Sorry for the slight ironic tone, but I think you get the idea.

    “Land questionable ownership status.”

    Former Jesusalem Deputy Mayor Meron Benvinisti has done a great job documenting that the only major questionable (Meron says “improper and illegal”) ownership status problems are on the Israeli side. Worth the read if you have time.

  11. Elle Weiss
    March 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

    Hehe, Yaakov, I’m not saying JVP will suddenly destroy Hillel but it can make it less safe place for Zionist students and make them less interested in joining. Many Zionist students face a lot of hate from outside professors, students and groups and Hilllel is their safe place. One of my dear friends is at Rachel Corrie’s home campus and I read about the heck he has to go through. I walked through the halls at my own undergrad and saw people screaming and demonstrating against Israel. Having the Hillel be free of that was very emotionally healthy for me and other students.

  12. Yakov Wolf
    March 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Thanks for the clarification, Elle.

    I very much do see the point you’re trying to make, but I’d argue that what you fear could happen to Zionist students is already, right now, happening to non-Zionist students, or even Zionist students critical of Israel, within Hillel. You’ve said in the past that JVP members should go to Students for Justice in Palestine meetings instead of Hillel, but I’m not sure that gets the gist of what Hillel represents. Don’t JVP members, or even non-JVP members who are non-Zionist, post-Zionist, even Anti-Zionist, have a right to commune with other Jews with differing opinions? Doesn’t sending them off to somewhere else, anywhere else, based on their politics and not a whit based on whether they’re shomer shabbos, or read the parshah, or even read secular Yiddish poetry for the love of the sound of the words, broadcasting the wrong message about the Jewish student community?

    On an unrelated note, I think you and I, in fact, share a dear friend.

  13. Yakov Wolf
    March 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Also, Elle,

    “They have diametrically opposite goals.”

    I’m a little troubled by this statement. JVP’s goal is to end the military occupation. The merits or drawbacks of Zionism as a personal worldview is not even part of the conversation we are trying to have, because that’s a discussion that has no end to the possible definitions that can be attached–Are we talking cultural Zionism? Labor? Revisionist? Herl or Ha’am? Pre-state Kibbutzim Zionism which was decidedly anti-Statist or the Zionism of the settler movement?–and only serves to create divisions between people who both want the same goal–to end the occupation.

    At the same time, knowing that JVP’s goal is ending the occupation, to hear that Hillel has diametrically opposed goals seems to suggest that Hillel is PRO-occupation, maintaining the status quo of a stateless civilian population controlled by military force.

    I know that can’t possibly be what you mean, though. And that’s the problem of that comparison. It’s comparing apples to oranges. I’d be wrong for me to suggest that Hillel is Pro-occupation just as you’d be wrong to suggest Hillel is anti-Zionist. We’re looking at the same tree but two completely different branches.

    Okay, enough with all the mixed metaphors from me!

  14. Harpo Jaeger
    March 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    Alex: Any organization that takes a stance of boycott and divestment from Israeli products, I believe, has crossed over the pro-Israel line.
    JVP doesn’t take that stance. Furthermore, who are you to decide who gets to call themselves pro-Israel and who doesn’t?
    Your point about disproportionate media coverage is a valid one. But we have to remember that Israel has long identified itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East” (although that’s hopefully changing now). Thus, it’s completely reasonable to hold it to a higher standard of human rights. It’s not that human rights violations are somehow more “acceptable” in other places, but they’re not as out of the ordinary. It’s also true that our news media tends to do a bad job in general of highlighting problems that aren’t flashy and exciting. Israel-Palestine is flashy and exciting. That doesn’t mean it’s getting too much press coverage, it means it’s getting a certain kind of sensationalistic coverage that tends to lack depth. That’s not JVP’s fault, and they shouldn’t be held responsible for it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Further thoughts on the Brandeis/JVP dust-up « New Voices - March 20, 2011

    […] and David for this, I think it’s a great idea), I and several other NV bloggers offered our thoughts on the propriety of Brandeis Hillel’s rejection of the campus JVP chapter.  You should read it – check out the comments as well.  Here, I want to expand on my thoughts a […]

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