Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No More of This at Swarthmore

Swarthmore Hillel may become known now as the Shammai Chapter.

As we are informed:-

In a swift, decisive move, Eric Fingerhut, the new president and chief executive officer of Hillel International informed the head of Swarthmore College’s (former) Hillel just who is in the driver’s seat when it comes to making policy decisions. The Swarthmore chapter’s unanimous vote on Sunday, Dec. 8, to reject Hillel guidelines regarding Israel, means it cannot use the name Hillel. “Let me be very clear – ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances,” Fingerhut wrote,

And we learn more:

The local Federation paper, the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, reveals that there are more details to be worked out.  It quotes what it refers to as the “Hillel of Greater Philadelphia’s staff person at Swarthmore, Rabbi Kelilah Miller,” who, presumably receives support, training, communications or other benefits from being affiliated with Hillel.  But Miller said she plans to “challenge the students to live up to the commitments they expressed in the resolution they adopted.”  In other words, she’s committed to ensuring the students continue to thumb their nose at Hillel’s guidelines.  

Miller?  The one signed-on to this last year's J Street letter?  Who was in Netiovot recently (did she visit a YESHA Jewish community to learn?)

Back in 2002, Miller provides an insight into the development of a 19-year old freshman who deosn't really care that society needs protect itself to the concept that perhaps Jewish students do not need to worry about exposure to anti-Zionism:-

I'm sorry, but to my mind, that type of thinking, which presumbably only further "progressively" developed is the worse thing Israel defenders need in a Hillel Rabbi.

I left this comment at the Hillel site:

I hope that if Swarthmore Hillel decides to remain "Open" but unaffiliated (will they call themselves Shammai?), that I and some of my colleagues will be invited to speak? I live on the eastern side of some fictitious line colored Green that once delineated the site where Arab aggression a la 1948 stopped and had no international legal; standing other than being a cease-fire line recognized in an Armistice Agreement but which Arabs flouted from Day One. In my area, there are Jewish communities, reconstituted (see Preamble to League of Nations decision to award a Mandate to Gt. Britain for the purpose of a Jewish national home based on the Jewish people's historical connection with that land [oh, and Arabs were never mentioned; only non-Jews]), since Arab ethnic-cleansing during the Mandate period expelled Jews from places in which they resided for centuries and even before the conquering Arabs arrived when they occupied the Jewish homeland in 638 CE, like Gaza, Hebron, Shchem, Jenin and the Old City of Jerusalem.
We have a great narrative to tell the students and I think this title, best sums it up: "Apartheid Roads and other Lies They Told You". I can even bring a PowerPoint Presentation.



NormanF said...


I hope you go there someday, with or without an invitation! And we shall see if Swathmore really is committed to pluralism and tolerance for ALL viewpoints in Jewish life - and I hope above all that includes Zionist speakers.

After all, they declared themselves "Open" and we shall see if they persevere in their ideals when put to the test of upholding them. On a related note, Einat Wilf says that she was disinvited by Peace Now from speaking at their meeting. It turns out poor Yariv Openheimer, who had invited her was overruled on it by his own organization.

Zionists of all stripes face a tough audience these days and that's not going to change in the foreseeable future.

YMedad said...

Dear President Fingerhut,

That was an excellent, long-overdue, and welcome letter to the Joshua Wulfson. Since 2000 and the explosion of hatred against Israel, it has been so rare to have a Jewish leader with the spine to respond to the way so many Jews, humiliated by the picture of Israel purveyed by the media (e.g. Jenin) and the post-colonial intelligentsia, have jumped on the bandwagon, eager to distance themselves from anyone and any statement that might embarrass them further.

One thing that you didn't touch on in your response to the Swarthmore Hillel is the problematic nature of the statement “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.”

I'm willing to bet that a record of those who composed this letter will show they were not at all welcoming to Zionists, not only "far right-wing" settlers, but even just strong advocates and defenders of Israel who might, for example, eviscerate the Goldstone Report so dear to groups like J-Street and Students for Justice in Palestine.

If only they had well-informed defenders of Israel present with the "anti-, post-, and non-Zionists" this would be much less of a problem. Having a constant and unopposed stream of people who [claim they] are "progressives on the left," with no contradiction from well-informed advocates, is the only way their anti-Israel message can go down.

Again congratulations on your courage and clear-sightedness. And welcome to the struggle for real standards in a world marked by posers.

Richard Landes
Department of History
Boston University
226 Bay State Road
Boston MA 02215