In March Ohio State University’s Hillel kicked out the LGBTQ student group B’nai Keshet, after it co-sponsored a fundraiser to help refugees, for which Jewish Voice for Peace was also listed as a co-sponsor. The co-sponsorship violated Hillel’s rules of affiliation because JVP supports Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Open Hillel, a group that is seeking to reform Hillel’s guidelines, has led a solidarity campaign on behalf of B’nai Keshet and stated in an action alert: “When OSU Hillel expelled B’nai Keshet, they pulled staff advising, funding, and access to the Hillel building and student list-serve from the group. They also pulled a paid Hillel internship from one of their student leaders.”
At the same time as Ohio State University’s Hillel was banning the LGBTQ organization, it received a $75,000 gift from an Israeli government agency, Mosaic United, which is overseen by an official who is opposed to same-sex marriage, Naftali Bennett.
“Hillel made us choose between the LGBTQ community and the Jewish community, but we can’t choose. I’m always going to be queer and Jewish. I just wish I could be queer and Jewish inside Hillel,” the Forward reported an unnamed student said after the banning.
The Wesleyan University Jewish organization held a solidarity event for the B’nai Keshet last month. What follows is a press release from the Williams College Jewish Association in western Massachusetts in support of B’nai Keshet.
The Williams College Jewish Association, the Jewish student organization at Williams College, passed a resolution of support for B’nai Keshet, the LGBTQ Jewish group that was expelled from Ohio State Hillel. Under pressure from Hillel International, OSU Hillel expelled B’nai Keshet for participating in a fundraiser for LGBTQ refugees on the basis of the political views of other co-sponsoring groups.
The resolution calls on Hillel to re-admit B’nai Keshet into the Jewish community on campus. “We assert that campus Jewish communities must welcome students of all backgrounds and perspectives,” the statement reads.
“Many queer Jews, myself included, have experienced discrimination in the Jewish community,” said Sam Alterman, a junior at Williams and an active member of the Williams College Jewish Association. “While there are still steps we need to take to make our own community inclusive, I am heartened to know that WCJA is willing to take a stand against the exclusion of queer people from Jewish life.”
The resolution further calls on Hillel International to end its $22 million partnership with Mosaic United, a project led by Israel’s Ministry of Education and Diaspora Affairs under Minister Neftali Bennett. The Williams College Jewish Association statement explains, “Because of the program’s leadership and because of its professed aims, we fear that Mosaic will serve to marginalize many of the unique and integral members of our Jewish community, including LGBTQ students and students from interfaith families.”
As Ohio State Hillel expelled its LGBTQ Jewish student group, it also accepted a $73,000 grant from Mosaic United.
This Friday, May 5, the Williams College Jewish Association will host a Shabbat service in solidarity with B’nai Keshet. “We will keep [B’nai Keshet’s] community-building work in our minds as we explore modes of prayer that celebrate and support LGBTQ identity and spirituality,” the resolution states. “We feel compelled to reaffirm our support for the core Jewish values of pluralism, equity, and open discourse that are central to our community.”
Since November 2016, Open Hillel, a national student movement working to promote pluralism and open discourse in Hillel and the wider Jewish community, has called on Hillel International to end its partnership with Mosaic. This B’nai Keshet solidarity Shabbat follows others that have been held at colleges and universities around the country. It also follows an Open Hillel Passover rally that called on Hillel to re-admit B’nai Keshet and end its partnership with Mosaic.
You can read the full text of the Williams College Jewish Association resolution here.