Meet the Jewish students who are taking on the Jewish establishment

Henry Rosen, Vassar freshman and member of the Jewish Union there

Henry Rosen, Vassar freshman and member of the Jewish Union there

In the last few days I have talked to several young Jews who are part of the historic Open Hillel movement that is determined to break down the doors on the official Jewish conversation about Israel and allow young people to think for themselves. For me the movement is as glorious as other impulses toward social justice from young Jews, including their participation in the 1960s Freedom Rides. But these students are modest.

“Is it a revolution?” I asked Naomi Dann of Vassar. “I wouldn’t call it that yet,” she said. “It’s a call for change.”

Vassar is one of two schools that have now declared themselves Open Hillel’s; they reject Hillel International’s “Israel guidelines” on participation in campus chapters that exclude those who seek to “delegitimize” Israel or who have endorsed boycott of Israel.

Vassar’s Jewish Union voted to go open last week, and released a statement saying that the International’s rules did not represent the “diversity” of young Jews’ views.

Before Vassar, Swarthmore struck in December, and was more emphatic:

“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.”

Hillel International is paying close attention to the movement, and there are signs that it is trying to make peace with it.

So what is this movement?

Open Hillel began at Harvard a year and a half ago, when the Hillel chapter there was barred from hosting an event featuring “Jewish voices against Occupation,” because a co-sponsor was the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, which crosses the firmly-Zionist redlines that Hillel International had adopted in 2010. Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a Harvard student and member of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, was shocked by the censorship: the Jews who were going to speak had worked against house demolitions in the West Bank. She resolved to organize against it, inside the Jewish community.

Sandalow-Ash made that resolution because of her own strong Jewish identity. “It’s not like I had a choice about whether I get to be Jewish or not. I went to Jewish day school, and being Jewish is an essential part of who I am.”

The Hillel censorship was so blatant (some chapters were barring the liberal Zionist group J Street from participating) that Sandalow-Ash knew she could win other students to the cause, including non-Jews who participate in Hillel activities. The Hillel policy was sure to shock “people who are not indoctrinated to believe that someone who doesn’t agree with you is a threat to your organization, your community, and your sense of self.”

A small group of organizers began reaching out to Hillel’s around the country. The movement has so far yielded success at smaller institutions because they are less dependent on organizational funding. Vassar, for instance, gets all its funding, including the salary of its one staffer, from the college and the Jewish Union’s own endowment. “There is no direct financial risk from our decision, as far as we know,” says Naomi Dann.

By contrast, the Hillel chapters at Berkeley and Harvard are highly dependent on the Jewish establishment, and moves  to open the chapters have been caught up in bureaucratic wrangling.

“Why has it taken so long? Honestly because of money,” Sandalow-Ash explained to me. “There is financial pressure from multiple levels of the Jewish establishment…. Harvard’s not Swarthmore… We have a large board of trustees. We are funded by the Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston.”

This surely explains why Berkeley alumni have called on the professional leaders of the Berkeley Hillel, including a rabbi and board chair, to open up that chapter.

The blows by Vassar and Swarthmore have now set up a battle between Hillel International’s professional leadership and students. And there are signs that Hillel International is trying to reposition itself.

When Swarthmore declared itself an Open Hillel, Eric Fingerhut, the head of Hillel International, threatened to disaffiliate the group in a slam-the-door letter saying the Swarthmore “position is not acceptable” and Hillel International was “unwavering” in its support for Israel: “‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.”

A few weeks later, his letter to Vassar had much nicer manners.

“Dear Naomi,

I have read the release from the Vassar Jewish Union carefully, and I appreciate you following up with an offer to discuss this issue….

I have asked my colleagues at Hillel International to set up a time to meet with you and the Jewish student community on campus.   We look forward to continuing this dialogue so that together we can assure that the needs of all Jewish students at Vassar are met.”

Who are these students?

They’re young Jews who are dedicated to free thinking. When I visited Vassar, Henry Rosen, a freshman, above, told me that the Jewish Union had given him a place to explore his Judaism and his Jewishness, and that he considers himself an anti-Zionist; he does not see a need for a Jewish state. Naomi Dann told me that some of the students who voted to open up the Hillel are Zionists, and some are Israelis. She herself is a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. She recently published an article, opposing the Vassar president’s opposition to the boycott movement and expressing sympathy for the BDS program.

Meantime, Dann helps to lead Shabbat dinners. By email she told me that the Jewish community was hospitable to her values:

I originally joined the VJU first semester of my freshman year because there was an opening for the position of social justice chair and that was what I was interested in doing. I never expected to be involved (especially not to this extent) in Jewish life in college, but found myself in a welcoming Jewish community that became a home to me at Vassar in a number of ways. Jewishness is important to me because of the strong bonds of community that this identity has allowed me to develop. My connection to Judaism is rooted in the experience of community, I consider myself to be a secular, atheist Jew. (I’m definitely on the most secular and left side of the VJU though, not representative of the community as a whole at all).

Dann and Rosen and Sam Basch, a third member of VJU I met, said they were thrilled by their declaration and that it had come about via a thorough democratic process of deliberation in which the overwhelming majority had supported it.

Some students expressed concerns about what their parents would say, but Basch, Rosen and Dann all had their parents behind them.

“My parents have just praised me for taking a stand and doing something,” Basch said. She said her support for the statement came out of a dedication to “inclusivity and against censorship, to creating a pluralistic community… and providing a space for a variety of issues to be discussed.”

Other actions are sure to follow. None of the students I interviewed would say what school is going next, or what speaker the Open Hillels will invite to campus. And though I got hints that a chapter or chapters has voted against going open, Sandalow-Ash declined to answer my question about that.

In weeks to come, expect other small liberal arts colleges to follow Vassar and Swarthmore. And Sandalow-Ash said organizers will carry this battle for openness to other Jewish spaces. To Moishe houses. To the Ramaz School in New York.

She said young Jews’ views of Israel were affected by the failures of Oslo and images of the occupation. And meantime the official Jewish community is enforcing a “right wing” orthodoxy that would never be maintained in other political discussions.

Is this a revolution? I asked her. “I don’t know. That’s a weird question. I think Open Hillel expresses sentiments that have been growing gradually but also strongly among American Jewish students and the American Jewish community generally. We want everyone in the tent.”

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Activism, American Jewish Community, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 60 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. CitizenC says:

    This post IMO shows what is wrong with the Mondo sensibility. Despite its admirable attention to the “Israel lobby” and cognate issues, like Jewish wealth and influence throughout US political culture, Mondo persuades itself (and tries to persuade us) that “the community” is the key arena of struggle. IMO this is quite wrong, “the community” is and will always be dominated by its wealthy Zionist machers and shakers, and the “struggle within the community” is basically Jewish public relations. The young people are still figuring it out; but they are obligated not mainly to “the community” but as US citizens. When they graduate, the default destination for their Jewish identification will be JVP, which accuses “Israel lobby” critics of anti-Semitism (see “Reframing Anti-Semitism”), declines to organize or endorse the ASA boycott (but “supports” it as “not anti-Semitic”), appeals to Mayor de Blasio to “listen to other Jewish voices” as if there are only Jews in New York City and the US, criticizes “the occupation” but never Zionism, etc.

    These activist “young Jews” are obligated as American citizens, not as “Jews”. That obligation must inform their position toward “the community”, which can mean only outside it, after the heroic examples of Elmer Berger, Alfred Lilienthal, and others, against Zionism, and with the gentiles.

    • appeals to Mayor de Blasio to “listen to other Jewish voices” as if there are only Jews in New York City and the US, criticizes “the occupation” but never Zionism, etc.

      umm, where do you get the idea the people signing the letter to blasio “never” criticize zionism?

      link to mondoweiss.net

      the list of signatories has grown since this was published but i recognize some names on there of people who have definitely criticized zionism.

    • JVP, which accuses “Israel lobby” critics of anti-Semitism (see “Reframing Anti-Semitism”), declines to organize or endorse the ASA boycott

      i don’t think it’s fair to say they do not organize in support of ASA:

      link to jewishvoiceforpeace.org

      this is just one example i found in my jvp email alerts:

      Action Needed this Weekend and Monday Morning to Stop Passage of Dangerous Bill in NY State Assembly

      This past Tuesday, Jan. 28th, the NY State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill targeting the American Studies Association (ASA) because it recently passed a resolution supporting an academic boycott of Israel. If this becomes law it would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any taxpayer money on groups that support boycotts of Israel. For instance, such funds could not be used for travel or lodging for a faculty member attending a meeting of a group that supports a boycott of Israel. Just as dangerous, this law will lay the groundwork for other attempts to silence debate and opposition on other controversial issues.

      A similar bill is quickly moving through the process in the NY State Assembly…we must act now to stop it!

      link to jewishvoiceforpeace.org

      also, it is noteworthy that not all members of jvp are jewish (myself for example). it’s a great org with well over 100,000 members (i don’t know how many but i know it’s a lot) and they do great work.

      • CitizenC says:

        Come on Annie, they did not support or endorse the ASA action, because it exceeds their limits of “anti-occupation” BDS. When the Zionist forces reacted against the ASA JVP joined in. Had it been up to JVP there would have been no action.

        • citizenc, don’t ‘come on annie’ me. i noticed you didn’t address my question where do you get the idea the people signing the letter to blasio “never” criticize zionism?

          i also find it curious you’re bringing these complaints “what is wrong with the Mondo sensibility” to this particular thread regarding hillel, as opposed to an ASA thread. and the attack on jvp here.

          it’s not as if i don’t think there are times when the site focuses on a lobby aspect of some issue at the expense of it being a larger american issue in general, because that’s definitely happened.

          but why here? do you think it’s a mistake for these kids to change the dialogue “as jews”?

        • Henry Norr says:

          FWIW, here’s the official JVP statement about the ASA resolution:

          [December 16, 2013, New York] The passage of a resolution stating that the American Studies Association (ASA) will not enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions until Israel ends it human rights violations represents a significant milestone in the growth of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement in the United States. At a time when the world is remembering the legacy of Nelson Mandela, this membership vote reminds us that peoples’ movements can have a decisive role to play in working towards justice and peace.

          With its endorsement, the members of the ASA have voted to hold Israeli institutions accountable for their participation in human rights violations, bringing into sharp focus Israeli policies that severely limit the academic freedom of Palestinians within the occupied Palestinian territory and inside Israel. The resolution specifies that it does not prohibit collaboration on research and publications between individual scholars, nor does it prohibit Israeli scholars from attending international conferences.

          Additionally, the resolution helpfully responds to efforts to chill and stifle debate about Israel and Palestine on campus. “The ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel ­Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.” JVP appreciates the ASA’s position that these issues should be considered openly, and stands with the ASA against all attempts to shut down debate on campus. The open discussions that preceded the ASA vote and the ones it will generate are a welcome trend in academic discourse in this country.

          While Jewish Voice for Peace takes no position on academic boycotts, we do not believe that boycotts to pressure Israel to abide by international law are inherently anti-Semitic. Like the grape boycott by the United Farmworkers Union and the Nestle boycott, such boycotts employ nonviolent tactics in the service of liberation. They are among the tools that Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress employed to topple Apartheid in South Africa. In particular, the ASA resolution was clearly a sensitively written and thoughtfully argued effort that targets Israel’s policies, not Jewish people.

          So (unfortunately from my point of view) they don’t endorse the resolution, but that’s a pretty sympathetic statement. My guess (only that – I have no inside info) is that most of the individuals in the JVP leadership would endorse the resolution outright if speaking only for themselves, but that a substantial part of the membership isn’t ready for that and the leadership can’t get too far ahead of them.

          • CitizenC says:

            Henry, I doubt very much that the JVP leadership favors the action, given what I’ve read by them. The stmt strikes me as PR, attempting to have it both ways, to hold their limits and to avoid embarrassing themselves as the ASA action illuminated the issues. The fact remains that the ASA action would never have been conceived by JVP. I raised it on this thread as the likely terminus of the students’ actions, after graduation.

            The organized Jewish community, of which campus Hillels and Jewish academic units are a part, is the chief source of US Zionism since 1948. That is quite a butcher’s bill. Addressing all the apologetics and illusions that created it is the task facing dissenters. The detachment of M J Rosenberg’s student, noted below, is needed, for starters.

          • I doubt very much that the JVP leadership favors the action, given what I’ve read by them.

            really? then how do you explain the fact that one of their board members wrote “BDS is a necessary, ethical response to a brutal occupation worsened by 20 years of Oslo”: link to mondoweiss.net

            and i am curious if you know anything about Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director? again, are these your hunches or can you provide some source for your allegations?

            and have you read anything by members of Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council? link to jewishvoiceforpeace.org

            the JVP Council co-chair is Rabbi Brant Rosen link to mondoweiss.net

        • When the Zionist forces reacted against the ASA JVP joined in. Had it been up to JVP there would have been no action.

          is that your hunch? that had it been up to JVP there would have been no action? and do you have any sources wrt a timeline re “When the Zionist forces reacted against the ASA JVP joined in.” how do you know jvp wasn’t proactive before ‘zionist forces’ reacted?

          the initiative was not a jvp initiative, it was an ASA initiative. therefore technically weren’t all the responses a reaction to the initial initiative?

          and i do agree with you the ‘key arena of struggle’ over this issue is not the jewish community, it’s the american public. that’s not my point. my point is that i applaud these kids for doing what they’re doing. and i think the larger issue you’re addressing about jewish advocacy and self identification wrt mondoweiss or jvp, i think you’ve chosen the wrong thread to hammer.

      • CitizenC says:

        Your comments on the letter to the NY mayor avoid the main point, that these people ask to be listened to “Jews” as if there are no other voices. That is not an “anti-Zionist” (universalist, democratic) position.

        • Your comments on the letter to the NY mayor avoid the main point, that these people ask to be listened to “Jews” as if there are no other voices.

          i suppose i could better understand your point if aipac claimed to speak for all americans, but it doesn’t, it claims to speak for the jewish community. so it makes perfect sense to say ‘well, i’m jewish and aipac doesn’t speak for me.’ personally i have no problem with that.

          These activist “young Jews” are obligated as American citizens, not as “Jews”.

          why not just advocate not having hillels at all? and why participate in an online forumn “chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective” if your view is that self identifying as such somehow obliverates an obligation as an american? or something. why not some other kind of forumn?

          and what do you think of the endorsement of the academic boycott by the Association for Asian American Studies? do you think it’s weird they identified as asian americans vs “obligated as American citizens”?

          and what do you think of groups like american muslims for palestine (AMP)? do you think it would be better not to identify as such? or make statements regarding policy speaking as american muslims vs their obligation to speak out ‘as americans’?

          and speaking of “as if there are no other voices.” where are the other voices? has anyone read any other open letters to blasio lambasting him for that devotional aipac statement? or should we contrive their silence is also the fault of these jewish voices who only referenced in themselves “as jews” in the letter:

          But we do know that the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC,

          • W.Jones says:

            Annie,

            I thought he made a surprisingly good point about “Reframing anti-Semitism”. Once you see an interest group in action, it is hard to deny that it is a main factor in political decisions. But I don’t know why he says JVP joined in attacks on the ASA, if at least Harry’s statement was sympathetic.

            As for why he chose this article to comment, it could be slightly random. There have been times I wish I could go back to older articles to post and then the comment period expired after only a few days.

            Regards.

    • W.Jones says:

      I appreciate JVP’s work. Regarding the issue CitizenC brought up, I would turn your attention to Editor M. Plitnick’s view in JVP’s book “Reframing anti-Semitism”:

      American foreign policy in the Middle East has remained remarkably consistent since the end of the 1967 war, which was well before AIPAC had grown its power. Israel’s position as a steadfast ally of the United States has been a centre piece of American foreign-policy formation since that time. However, as more attention has been paid to the Middle East since September 11, 2001, the idea that “the Jews” are pulling the strings on American policy has gained more currency. Far easier than trying to take on the behemoth that is the American Government, the Christian Right, and the arms industry, as well as decades of entrenched policy, this view targets the relatively small group that has served as a mouthpiece for so many other forces. The forces that motivate the ill-advised and often immoral American policy in Israel/Palestine are complicated. A Jewish conspiracy is much simpler. page 5

      link to edcorrigan.ca..pdf

      This book came out in 2004, while Walt and Mearsheimer’s came out in 2007. The problem is that Plitnick, in opposing what would be Walt’s view, mislabels critics of interest groups supporting state policies as believers in a “Jewish conspiracy”, while he himself, a critic of state policies, is careful to separate the people from the state’s actions.

      • CitizenC says:

        W Jones, I know very well what Plitnick has written. There is also a second piece by him directly addressing Mears/Walt.

        The idea that the Zionist lobby is “supporting state policies” as if these would have been the same absent Zionism, is nonsense, for starters.

        Well, I didn’t really mean to get carried away and comment at length on Mondo again. I will leave you all to your regular rounds.

      • W.Jones says:

        Here is another link to Corrigan’s review, which discusses the issues further:
        link to thefreelibrary.com

    • hophmi says:

      “These activist “young Jews” are obligated as American citizens, not as “Jews.”

      And you presume to dictate to me what my obligations are as an American citizen, is that it?

      I’ll define those for myself, thanks.

      • RoHa says:

        “And you presume to dictate to me what my obligations are as an American citizen, is that it?

        I’ll define those for myself, thanks.”

        I think you will find that US Law and US society will want to help you with that.

        • Krauss says:

          I think you will find that US Law and US society will want to help you with that.

          Boom!

        • hophmi says:

          “I think you will find that US Law and US society will want to help you with that.”

          I think you’ll find that I’m under no legal or societal obligation to support a pro-Palestinian political agenda.

      • Sibiriak says:

        “These activist “young Jews” are obligated as American citizens, not as “Jews.”

        And they are obligated as human beings, not just as “American citizens.”

        And what is the ultimate source of these obligations?

    • lobewyper says:

      CitizenC wrote:

      “…Mondo persuades itself (and tries to persuade us) that “the community” is the key arena of struggle. IMO this is quite wrong, “the community” is and will always be dominated by its wealthy Zionist machers and shakers…”

      Here’s my take, CitizenC. The opening of Hillel to diverse points-of-view is of major importance because it affects gentiles as well as Jews, and gives both permission to think objectively and critically about Israeli policies without being smeared (as anti-semites or self-hating Jew).

      Yes, the machers and shakers will continue to wield tremendous power, but as the children and grandchildren of these people become more aware of what is happening in I-P, they will in turn influence their parents/grandparents and provoke them to greater objectivity toward Israel.

      I agree with Phil (citations?) that Jews are going to be necessary to create real change by permitting gentiles to think more objectively about what Israel has become and how it came to be that way. (Yes, Walt & Mearsheimer got the ball rolling, but its got a lot further to go.) What better group to start with than college students?

  2. simkhele says:

    Apart from the brave, direct taking on of Hillel, I have seen, too, in some recent visits to campuses, that kids involved in Hillel (even its officers sometimes), have developed a great work-around. The very same students have created or joined campus chapters of J-Street and they use that framework for inviting speakers and for organizing programming that Hillel won’t allow. Never mind any issues one might have with J-Street, or any wish that students would confront Hillel directly. IMHO, this is one effective strategy for making a range of voices heard on campus and one more example of Jewish students refusing to have their inquiry and expression restricted.

  3. CitizenC says:

    Recall M J Rosenberg’s encounter last fall with the college student on the bus, who dismissed MJ’s idea that he was obligated to be active on Israel/Palestine “as a Jew”. The student insisted that he was an American whose religion happened to be Judaism, that he had no obligation toward or connection to Israel, and told MJ “you’re still a Zionist.” MJ was totally flummoxed, but the student was exactly right. His words could have been written by Elmer Berger.

    link to huffingtonpost.com

    The student’s indifference toward Israel led his activism to other issues, like poverty in the US. An appeal to be concerned about Palestine must be based on his obligations as an American, not as a “Jew”.

    One of the dissident Hillel students says,

    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.

    Surely, such inclusiveness cannot be an end, but must address the role and responsibility of war criminals and liberal equivocators, or it is just apologetics. Without a strong universal reference and support, such criticism will struggle in an institutional Jewish setting.

    Elmer Berger spoke anywhere he could get a hearing, including in “the community” but he had his bearings and never felt beholden to it, on the contrary, he called it to account.

  4. W.Jones says:

    “She resolved to organize against it, inside the Jewish community… Ash knew she could win other students to the cause, including non-Jews who participate in Hillel activities.”

  5. Kathleen says:

    So exciting that these Jewish students are finally trying to push the decades long closed doors when it comes to openly discussing, allowing different views to be presented with in the Hillel system on campuses. My only objection is that Phil once again is trying to make it appear that these young students are out on the front lines of this issue as some of the Jews who were involved with Freedom Ride’s. This is far from the case. We all know it has taken Jews in any sort of sizable movement to stand up and push back against the I lobby and Israel on this issue. This lack of response we know has to do with fear, racism, training etc. Again great that this is taking place but trying to compare these students who are finally taking constructive and needed steps to confront these restriction to those involved with the Freedom Rides is ridiculous.

    Again ““Why has it taken so long?”

    • but trying to compare these students who are finally taking constructive and needed steps

      Naomi Dann told me that some of the students who voted to open up the Hillel are Zionists, and some are Israelis. She herself is a member of the Students for Justice in Palestine chapter. She recently published an article, co-authored with Nicole Massad, opposing the Vassar president’s opposition to the boycott movement and expressing sympathy for the BDS program.

      kathleen, i think it could be a mistake to assume these students are finally taking constructive and needed steps, when many may ‘finally’ be taking constructive and needed steps inside the hillel bubble. they could very well (like naomi) also be involved in activism outside of a ‘jewish’ framework. plus, they’re kids. lots of kids don’t become active politically before college.

      • Kathleen says:

        Yes but there have been Jewish students at Hillel’s on campuses for decades. Trying to make these students appear to be on the front lines like the Jewish individuals and many non Jews who were part of the Freedom Rides is absurd. No comparison. “Why has it taken so long”

        • i heard you the first few times. you keep asking that question. do you mean unlike non jews who, for the most part, have not been stepping up to this issue either? these kids are young so they were not around last decade or the decade before. i wasn’t even aware of palestine 20 years ago. you really have no idea why it’s taken so long or do you already have some idea?

          how can you ask a young adult why it has taken so long anyway?

          and personally i have no problem with phil thinking “other impulses toward social justice from young Jews, including their participation in the 1960s Freedom Rides.” i don’t have any impulse to lesson the meaning of their (personal) activism nor can i tell where it may lead them. i do think this movement is akin to the civil rights movement and i think kids today put their future careers at risk by speaking and acting out. i think it’s too soon to judge the impact of what they are doing and for many of them, in some ways, it may run completely counter to what they’ve been raised to believe. yet in other ways, it is their conscience they learned from that same upbringing.

          • Kathleen says:

            “why has it taken so long” for decades of Jewish students on campuses who have been members of Hillel to push this issue? To demand that individuals with other views on this issue speak at Hillel. Yes there are strong indications about “why it has taken so long” Because the urge to stand up against racism and discrimination when it came to African Americans was a much easier issue for Jews to stand up against. Even Phil and others here at MW have written about why they have not spoken out in the past about the abuse of Palestinians that they were well aware of long ago. Racism, fear of being cut off from their Jewish communities etc.

            As I said Annie I honor this shift that is taking place but to compare these young Jewish Hillel members to the Freedom rides is absolutely absurd. There is no comparison. The extremely dangerous situations that the individuals who were involved with the Freedom rides put themselves were life and death situations. Pushing Hillel to have a diverse pull of speakers about the I/P issue is not putting your life on the line. Get real. You and I can agree to disagree

          • Daniel Rich says:

            @ Annie Robbins,

            I am pleased to see to see these college kids roll up their moral sleeves and not sit on their hands. I have to agree with Kathleen angle though, that putting your life on the line as they did back then, is incomparable with what is happening today. Still, it’s courageous.

          • Kathleen says:

            And Annie I know many non Jews who have been stepping up to the plate on this issue for decades. Now their efforts may have not been as flamboyant as more recent efforts. Lobbying their Reps about this critical issues, putting together petitions for Reps pushing for cutting aid to Israel, demanding that they abide by international laws etc. Yes even protest in D.C. about this issue that the media did not cover. We know the media has been so reluctant to covering these efforts. Far worse decades ago.

            So yes I know many non Jews who have been lobbying their Reps hard about this issue for decades. I am talking about direct experience with lobbying groups in D.C. and in the state of Ohio and Colorado. And yes there are more Jews and non Jews becoming aware of the facts on the ground. But there is no getting around the fact that many Jews who have known what has been going on have stayed willfully silent up until the last 10 or so years. Phil and others have talked about their fears, their prejudices and willful silence. Take a hold of that and stop trying to elevate those who are getting involved as so brave, compare them to those who were involved with Freedom Rides etc. Silly.

            Just stick with that it is wonderful that these young people are getting involved.

          • Take a hold of that and stop trying to elevate those who are getting involved as so brave, compare them to those who were involved with Freedom Rides etc. Silly.

            if you’d like to continue telling me what to do, be my guest, i’m done communicating with you. i’ll leave you with this:

            For me the movement is as glorious as other impulses toward social justice from young Jews, including their participation in the 1960s Freedom Rides.

    • hophmi says:

      “My only objection is that Phil once again is trying to make it appear that these young students are out on the front lines of this issue as some of the Jews who were involved with Freedom Ride’s.”

      And like clockwork, Galt spews forth some more of her self-righteous nonsense.

      “Again great that this is taking place but trying to compare these students who are finally taking constructive and needed steps to confront these restriction to those involved with the Freedom Rides is ridiculous.”

      And like clockwork, she repeats herself again and again. We get it, Kathleen. Here’s a blue ribbon that says “I was FIRST on this issue” and a hat that says “I’m #1!”.

      • Kathleen says:

        Comparing these Jewish students who are challenging Hillel or in other ways challenging their Jewish communities to allow debate on this issue and being inclusive of people with different views to those involved with the Freedom Rides is absolutely absurd and insulting to those who participated in the Freedom Rides. Why even do this? Why not just simply say that it is great that they are getting involved. Sorry you just have difficulty with the truth.

      • Kathleen says:

        Oh yes and I have never said any of the ridiculous things you claim. I always give credit to those who have been out on the front lines of issues. Too bad you and sometimes Phil seem incapable of that.

  6. broadside says:

    Personally, I think it’s Hillel itself that’s the problem, not which chapter supports this or that. The whole concept is wrong. More Olympics is what’s needed, less Maccabiah Games.

    • hophmi says:

      “The whole concept is wrong.”

      In what way? Are you against Jews identifying as a group on campus? Do you feel the same way about gay people and African-Americans?

      • Theo says:

        hophmi

        Do you think we also should have a catholic group, a methodist group, a baptist group, a moslem group, a hindu group and a hundred other such groups? In my opinion dislikes of jews may originate from the facts, that they always separate themselves from their fellow citizens and that may bother certain individuals or groups. Over the history of mankind we were though to dislike other nations or religions and very few can free themselves from that curse. Can you?

  7. Clif Brown says:

    “It’s not like I had a choice about whether I get to be Jewish or not. I went to Jewish day school, and being Jewish is an essential part of who I am.”

    One can always determine what one is, though most don’t even try; some distancing from “me” is necessary to realize that “me” is a construction, impressed deliberately and with great force, by others upon the self. Yet the self has agency. Upbringing is not a life sentence for either good or bad.

    If I may steal a phrase from Rousseau to apply to this: “man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.” These invisible chains on “me” are the hardest to break.

    • One can always determine what [who?] one is,…… some distancing from “me” is necessary to realize that “me” is a construction, impressed ….by others upon the self….the self has agency. Upbringing is not a life sentence….

      this so reminds me of my adolescent discoveries, albeit w/the assistance of herman hesse, hallucinogens, laura nyro and stephen gaskin. not necessarily in that order, but probably so. after the beatles and dylan and vietnam. but i didn’t have a cultural ethnic tribe (outside of being a california girl) to contend with. and i do think, for the most part, upbringing is a life sentence. we’re products of our environment.

      doesn’t mean we can’t change and transform. thanks for that clif, for reminding me of that time.

      • RoHa says:

        “One can always determine what [who?] one is”

        By “what you are” Cliff means “what sort of thing you are”.

        When expressed as a question (“What are you?”) the answers include such things as “human being, Welsh, left-handed lesbian Latvian spokeshaver’s apprentice, curmudgeonly old fart, California Gal, Buddhist Monk, Member of The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, PhD, person with a deep appreciation for the sanctity of life, and all that other stuff”. (This might be the “identity” we hear about so often.)

        “Who you are” means simply “Name, DOB, and other immediately relevant details to enable us to pick you out from the crowd”. It is a matter of bare individuation.

        So “being Jewish is an essential part of who I am” should be “being Jewish is an essential part of what I am.”

        Cliff is correct to distinguish between the self and the “me” (I would use the term “self image”*) and to point out that we can, with effort, change our self image. We can change what we are.

        We cannot change who we are. I cannot (without being totally extinguished) cease to be this particular individual. Even if (per impossible) I become a pleasant tempered, kind hearted, old gentleman, devoid of all sarcasm and pedantry, I will still be this particular individual.

        (*Not an entirely satisfactory term, since it seems too passive, whereas what Cliff is referring to includes the activities, etc., based on that image. Perhaps “constructed self” would be better.)

    • eljay says:

      >> “It’s not like I had a choice about whether I get to be Jewish or not.”

      She may not have had a choice about being “made Jewish”, but the choice to remain Jewish or to cease being Jewish is entirely hers. I was born to a Croatian father and Italian mother and I was raised Catholic, but I am neither Croatian, Italian nor Catholic.

      >> “I went to Jewish day school, and being Jewish is an essential part of who I am.”

      Wow, Jewish day schools are powerful! They are able to inextricably fuse Jewishness with one’s identity!

      • Krauss says:

        There’s a subtext of bitterness from both eljay and Clif Brown that they didn’t have a strong identity, and thus they get annoyed when other people have one.

        The solution is not to tear down other people’s identity but build your own. Of course, I understand that the concept of ‘white identity’ is somewhere to the right of Atilla the Hun in the U.S. context, rendering it untouchable for most people, but it needn’t be that way.

        I also think White American identity has long been such a given, that whites in America have identified themselves as Californians or just Americans, this is especially true for older white Americans, who grew up in a different era.

        I’m guessing the younger will be different, in large part because the obsession of race in American society is reaching new heights all the time.

        • eljay says:

          >> There’s a subtext of bitterness from both eljay and Clif Brown that they didn’t have a strong identity, and thus they get annoyed when other people have one.

          Lame, Krauss. Very lame.

          1. I don’t do subtext.
          2. I do have a strong identity, but it’s the one I’ve chosen for myself, not the one that was chosen for or imposed upon me by others.
          3. What’s annoying is people pretending that their identity is entirely out of their control. You want to be Jewish, go ahead and be Jewish. But own up to the choice you have made – don’t blame it on others or on your day school.

        • piotr says:

          Attilla was perhaps of Oriental race, however, Huns did intermarry and had an identity crisis.

          I guess “identity” is a neutral concept until it is used to oppress other people, and while it happens, it does not always happen.

        • Clif Brown says:

          Not bitterness, impatience perhaps.

          We are all of the identity: human being.

          When I look at the world of bickering, warring parties, knowing that any two individuals who are antagonists could have been swapped at birth only to end up in the same conflict but on the opposite side, I ponder what free will means that is is so rarely used.

          I always admired Erich Fromm’s idea that freedom is frightening; that people will go to great lengths to avoid it, often finding “leaders” to tell them what to do. There is no more effective escape from freedom than simply wearing the comforting cloak of selfhood that comes with upbringing.

          If I am not what I have been told I am, then who am I? What should I do? With whom should I associate? What is right and wrong? There is a bit of terror there.

          One day in my youth I was riding in the car as my dad drove. I forget what brought up the comment he made, but it remains with me. He said, “whatever others may do, or how many may do it, don’t believe you have to do it too.”

      • Theo says:

        Could someone explain what is a “jewish identity”? Belonging to that religion? Since there is no such thing as a jewish nation, a jew from Poland have very little or nothing in common with one from Marocco, what other cathegory can be used? Benjamin Freeman, an american jew, accused during the 1960s other jews that they are to 80% nothing, but converted khasars. So if they have nothing else in common then it must be the religion!
        The problem is, that great number of them are not religious and have never seen the inside of a synagoge in their adult life. A catholic is not a catholic if he doesn´t belong to the church.
        Perhaps Krauss can enlighten us on this subject.

  8. dbroncos says:

    Good work Vassar Hillel students! Another clod of injustice tumbles into the sea.

  9. tokyobk says:

    I admire Annie for debating in earnest but the opening, in fact return, of the Jewish community to diverse opinions on Israel is threatening not only to a narrow minded Zionism but to people who come to this issue by way of a general interest (to be kind) in the Jews. Jews here, there, under the bed etc…

    People interested primarily in achieving rights and justice will welcome any opening of the impasse.

    And by the way, these kids were in high school a few years ago. So what are they late for?

    • Krauss says:

      I admire Annie for debating in earnest but the opening, in fact return, of the Jewish community to diverse opinions on Israel is threatening not only to a narrow minded Zionism but to people who come to this issue by way of a general interest (to be kind) in the Jews. Jews here, there, under the bed etc…

      Oh, look, Tokyo is pulling the anti-Semitism card. Again.

      Honestly, putting aside your hysterical paranoia, your argument has no logic.
      Why would anti-Semites like that the debate on Israel is changing? If anything, that would aid them, because it would split Jews. This is the right-wing Jewish argument that is being validated by actions of left-wing Jews like myself.

      Of course, my take is that over the long term, the Jewish people will be strengthened by a return to the moral traditions of the prophets, to lead the world in an ethical life. And Apartheid’s not part of that.

  10. Theo says:

    Excuse my ignorance, however I always though that Vassar is an all female college? In that case I wonder what Henry is doing there, or was there a change?

  11. Ecru says:

    Call me cynical but is this “opening” due to an actual respect for human rights/honest discourse or an attempt to avoid blow-back from non-Jews as the Zionist enterprise, still supported by the majority of Jews, gets seen for what it is?

  12. lschu77570 says:

    Isn’t it ironic that those who don’t see the need for a Jewish state advocate for a Palestinian state?

    Why are those who rant about Palestinians being disposessed from their property did not voice similar concerns about Jews in Egypt, Iraq etc.?