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.)
(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.
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?