How open should campus Hillels be? This is not a trivial question, and should be treated seriously now that the Swarthmore Hillel student board, in line with a national group called “Open Hillel,” voted to defy Hillel International’s guidelines by opening their doors to anti-Israel speakers and groups.
Open Hillel has a hidden political agenda. In its campaign, it is a partner with the anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which seeks to gain entry into Hillels across the county to mainstream the BDS campaign against Israel.
There are good reasons why JVP should not be hosted at Hillels. Last May, JVP’s executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson told an anti-Israel gathering at Stanford that her group is the “the Jewish wing of the [Palestinian solidarity] movement” and in that role “it is very important to think sort of how we plant a wedge” within Jewish community institutions regarding Israel.
JVP claims it pursues its mission based on “Jewish values.” But Judaism in no way sanctions Jews abandoning fellow Jews facing mortal danger. In the face of the annihilationist and overtly antisemitic ideologies of Hamas, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah, this agnosticism coming from a Jewish group with respect to Israel’s existence – and thus the safety of millions of Israeli Jews – represents a gross moral failure and a betrayal of Jewish values.
International Hillel’s decision warning the Swarthmore students that they may not use the Hillel name if they pursue their policy is a correct one. Hillel appropriately will not become a party to the global delegitimization activists who seek Israel’s demise and put Jewish lives in peril.