Who Qualifies For Hillel?

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Back when I was in college, my roommates were pretty involved with Hillel. And from what I got from them, there has always been a debate in Hillel about much should the organization try to reach out to Jews on the periphery, or even more specifically, Jews who are bothered by pro-Israel advocacy on campus.

For one, Hillel is a proud Zionist organization. But at the same time, they claim to represent the needs of Jewish students, from all walks of life. So what are they supposed to do?

Recently, Brandeis Hillel took a somewhat controversial move by denying membership to Jewish Voice for Peace–a leftist student group on campus. While the group claims to be pro-Israel, they also are supportive of the boycott of Israeli products. According to JTA, Brandeis Hillel believed that the group’s actions and words did not fit under the umbrella of the organization.

Now what do you guys think? Do you think it’s inappropriate for Hillel to place judgment on a group of self-identifying Jews just because of their political beliefs?

Or is Brandeis Hillel right in essentially saying that being pro-Israel and being Jewish are one and the same? And if you stray off too far from the path, then you can no longer be included–much like the Jewish community feels about Jews for Jesus, for example.

I can’t say that I have a strong opinion on this, but I’m leaning towards Brandeis Hillel being in the wrong here. If Hillel was just a pro-Israel group, that would be one thing. But that’s not all they do. And Hillel is on campus to make Jews feel comfortable–no matter how deplorable we find their political views.

I dunno, though. I’m just one guy. Feel free to comment.

Posted on March 21, 2011

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3 thoughts on “Who Qualifies For Hillel?

  1. treyfe

    But Jeremy 50 rabbis agree with you! And J St U and Meretz USA, and most of New Voices.

    First off, Jewish Voice for Peace doesn’t really call themselves pro-any specific group, but they definitely have members who do. They are certainly pro-human rights including those of Jewish Israelis. Also they support boycotts of products made in Israeli settlements, but not Israel proper. But I think your basic instinct is correct, Hillel should be for all Jewish student groups.

  2. Jeremy Moses Post author

    Thanks for the clarifications! To be fair, I was running on no sleep yesterday–so I wasn’t at my best with all the specifics.

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