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Swarthmore Hillel stands by opening to anti-Zionists– as int’l org says, not ‘under our roof’

Israel/Palestine
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This is exciting news. After Swarthmore Hillel voted unanimously last weekend to open its doors to everyone who wants to discuss the conflict, including anti-Zionists, the president of Hillel International yesterday slammed the window on Swarthmore Hillel.

And Swarthmore Hillel has responded, We stand by our resolution.

You can read Hillel President Eric Fingerhut’s letter below, and it is emphatic: No anti-Zionists allowed. On these principles we will never waver. Israel is the “democratic, open, pluralistic home of the Jewish people.” So Israel is open, but not the U.S. (When Jewish life has teemed with anti-Zionists for the entire history of Zionism.)

Swarthmore Hillel has written back to Eric Fingerhut in the most diplomatic language. It is also unwavering. As you read these two letters, judge who is the wiser, and more thoughtful.

Here is the Hillel president’s letter to Swarthmore Hillel’s communications director, Joshua Wolfsun:

Dear Joshua,

Thank you for sending me your resolution and for your offer to engage in conversation. I believe that through discussion, as Hillel the Elder believed, comes learning that is meaningful and inspiring. However, unlike your email, which invites discussion and is welcome, your resolution simply states that the students at Swarthmore Hillel “will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines.” This position is not acceptable.

Hillel’s Israel guidelines, which were developed carefully with a broad coalition of our organization’s stakeholders, state: “Hillel welcomes a diversity of student perspectives on Israel and strives to create an inclusive, pluralistic community where students can discuss matters of interest and/or concern about Israel and the Jewish people in a civil manner.” Hillel is also, as the guidelines state, “steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders as a member of the family of nations.”

In summary, while welcoming debate on the many important and difficult questions that Israel faces, a debate that is vigorous in Israel as well, Hillel International does draw a line. That line is as follows: “Hillel will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; Delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.”

I hope you will inform your colleagues on the Student Board of Swarthmore Hillel that Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines. No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.

Your resolution further includes 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.” This is simply not the case. 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.

Hillel recognizes, of course, that “organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice” violate these guidelines may well be welcomed on campus, according to the policies of the particular college or university. The Hillel on campus, however, may not partner with or host such groups or speakers. This is entirely within our discretion as an organization, and we have clearly stated our intention to make these important decisions to protect our values and our critically important mission. Just as the university decides who will teach classes, and what organizations it will allow on campus, so Hillel will decide who will lead discussions in programs it sponsors and with whom it will partner.

In one of your resolution’s clauses, you invoke “the values espoused by our namesake, Rabbi Hillel, who was famed for encouraging debate in contrast with Rabbi Shammai.” Rabbi Hillel was famed for his openness to others, and his leniency in legal interpretation to advance tikkun olam – “repairing the world.” This spirit is strong in today’s American Jewry, and it is strong in the work of Hillel on every campus. However, Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

We here at Hillel International hold firm to his legacy. We encourage debate and dissent, but we draw the line at hosting groups who would deny the right of the State of Israel to exist. We will stand with Israel, the democratic, open, pluralistic home of the Jewish people.

On that fundamental principle, we are unwavering.

Sincerely,
Eric D. Fingerhut

Now here is Wolfsun’s response, sent yesterday.

Dear President Fingerhut,

Thank you for your prompt response. These are important and hard conversations that we are having within our community, but they are necessary. Although we stand by our resolution and our editorial, we look forward to a productive and fruitful dialogue with both you and with Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.

We would like to invite you come to Swarthmore Hillel to discuss this with us in person at your earliest possible convenience. If you will join us in dialogue, we would love to have you.

Best,
Joshua Wolfsun (Communications Coordinator) on behalf of the Swarthmore Hillel Student Board

By the way, the $64,000 question, from the Forward’s coverage:

According to Wolfsun, Swarthmore Hillel has little worry about regarding local censure or financial repercussions that might come from inviting speakers to campus who are not regarded as pro-Israel. “We had a fair amount of autonomy on this decision,” Wolfsun said. “We are funded by our own endowment and have no board of overseers.”

And who will be next? Wolfsun tells me, “Right now there are no other Hillels who look likely to join us in the near future.”

I asked Wolfsun if his group’s original declaration, which made this assertion–

“we need to constantly wrestle with how best to meet the collective needs of a diverse community. We need to create a space that is safe and welcoming for all”–

was an opening to all on the Swarthmore campus to discuss this question, including non-Jews. He said it was:

The Swarthmore Hillel Board recognizes that the community in which we operate and that we serve cannot be defined by clear boundaries. We are a part of the Interfaith Community at Swarthmore, and welcome people of all beliefs to come and share in our programming. As we move forward, we recognize that this discussion about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is one that will involve the Jewish community and also the larger Swarthmore campus.

That principle, as articulated above, was explicitly discussed by the board and is a part of our mission statement adopted last Spring, which reads, “Hillel is a religious, social, and cultural organization that serves the Swarthmore Jewish community and the campus as a whole through fostering engagement with Jewish cultures and religion, connecting students who are interested in Judaism, and by providing a space for practicing, exploring, and discovering Judaism and Jewish identity.”

Now that is confidence and smarts. These young people are leading the Jewish community.

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54 Responses

  1. Sycamores
    Sycamores
    December 11, 2013, 10:40 am

    Hillel international .org website about page you will find a link Social Justice (Tzedek) http://www.hillel.org/jewish/social-justice-tzedek with this beautiful sub heading

    “It is only through caring for one another, including the stranger, that we can really repair the world.”

    and this nice paragraph:

    “Through our international public service effort, Weinberg Tzedek Hillel, we are dedicated to transforming life on campus and in the community. Framed by the Jewish values of tzedakah (righteousness), gemilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness), and tikkun olam (repairing the world), Tzedek Hillel engages and empowers students to grow intellectually and spiritually, and to think creatively about social justice while bringing about meaningful social change.”

    unfortunate Hillel international social justice is very selective. hats off to Swarthmore Hillel who are trying to change that.

  2. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    December 11, 2013, 10:46 am

    However, Rabbi Hillel is perhaps more famous for his saying in Pirkei Avot, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

    Not that this part of the exchange between Wolfsun and Fingerhut is that important, but it’s rather annoying that the president of Hillel International so thoroughly distorts what he believes to be one of Hillel’s most famous dicta. The mishnah in question (Avot 1, 14) includes two more phrases (“And when I am for myself what am I? And if not now, when?”), and is all about spiritual growth and modesty — not legitimate egotism.

    Fingerhut’s understanding of what “myself” and “for myself” mean, however, is even more disturbing, and precisely what the Open Hillel group at Swarthmore seems to have rejected.

  3. Les
    Les
    December 11, 2013, 10:49 am

    Apartheid freedom of speech.

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      December 11, 2013, 1:51 pm

      That’s a bad phrase. There is no separation here. There is only attempt at censorship.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 11, 2013, 2:33 pm

        Krauss,

        Chapters are being instructed to strongly disassociate from other groups that have a different position. It creates a separation from them and restricts them.

        Now of course this is not enforcing Apartheid, so it really is not actual Apartheid.

  4. Ron Edwards
    Ron Edwards
    December 11, 2013, 11:50 am

    Hillel International has played fast and loose with organizational definitions for a long time. The HI president writes, “Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines.”

    To which the appropriate response is, “In your ear.” A university campus group can call itself “[school name] Hillel” or “Hillel [school name]” whenever it wants, under whatever charter it wants. Being affiliated with Hillel International is a different thing, a matter of choice on the part of the student group and under no authority from external powers whatsoever.

    As it happens, letting Hillel International onto campus as an alleged “mere” umbrella support organization across campus HIllels is a really bad idea. They embed their officers into the schools’ religious student-support apparatus, they issue directives and establish standards of conduct which are not subject to question or local adjustments, and they assign agents of influence into recruiting and activist practices.

    When challenged by faculty or students, Hillel International defends itself either as a “member of this campus community” by invoking the student organization, or as “immune to internal review” by invoking its external organization, whichever seems most effective at the moment. Another trick is to straddle the lines among the categories of a religious student group, a social/activities-based one, and a political one, because the categories are often distinguished by the school in terms of precisely what the group can and cannot do. Hillel gets itself rated as more than one at a time, which means diffusing the local administrative authority over it – campus employees are more than happy to turf it back and forth rather than actually crack down on infractions.

    These strategies permits the organization to flout university standards of conduct far, far beyond anything any other campus organization can do. Certainly in comparison to ordinary political organizations, like the DNC or RNC, whose influence over campus groups is met with massed bayonets on the part of the university.

    The sooner campus Hillels divest themselves from this appalling institution, which is no “campus life” or “religious life” organization at all but rather a blatant and rather vicious propaganda and control apparatus, the better.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      December 11, 2013, 2:25 pm

      Hillel is a registered trademark of B’nai B’rith International. Hillel organizations that don’t want to follow the rules have to change their name or they would get sued and they would lose.

      • Ron Edwards
        Ron Edwards
        December 11, 2013, 3:56 pm

        I’d like to see Hillel International try that suit. One can trademark a full name and a logo and any relevant imagery. One can’t trademark a word that’s only a component of the name.

        And you ain’t scary.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 11, 2013, 4:22 pm

        @Ron —

        It is trademark 74168047. This isn’t a debatable issue. B’nai B’rith International owns Hillel in the same way as the Pepsi Co owns “Pepsi”. It is their word.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 11, 2013, 4:52 pm

        “Open Hillel” is not trademarked.
        If some kids at college want to create a school club they call “Pepsi”, I do not think it would be a real problem. It is not incorporated or selling products.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 11, 2013, 6:35 pm

        @W Jones

        Yes if college kids call a school club Pepsi they would be in trouble. The moment they try and sign a lease for the building they are in as Pepsi they need to have a legal Doing-Business-As associated with their group. That’s a trademark violation. The moment they buy advertising for an event, that’s a trademark violation. If they get funds from the school. If they charge admission. If they pay a speaker…..

        Ask Apple computers about Apple records:
        ~ $100m in the 1970s through early 1980s
        ~$26.5m for a mistaken violation in 1991
        $500m in 2007 to buy all rights

      • Ron Edwards
        Ron Edwards
        December 11, 2013, 9:03 pm

        Talk is cheap; whiskey costs money. I’ve been reading your posts and it looks as if the pseudo-intellectual, techno-spouting bar has been raised higher from Obsidian’s level, the prior “I is educated” representative. We’re getting grad school hasbara now!

        You can repeat that trademark number all you want and it doesn’t make any difference. You’ll have to do better than that to pass yourself off as an expert. Get a little more detail into your threat, perhaps. Who would be sued, actually? The university is the entity supporting and defining the student groups it supports. What damages would be claimed? Trademark suits concern demonstrable damage, not “waaah he used it.”

        Amazing nonsense gets floated on the seas of gratuitous IP posturing. Most threatened suits get settled out of fear – few actually get into the courts and fewer stick.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 6:55 am

        Pepsi Club of Iowa
        http://www.pepsiclubofiowa.com
        “The club was co-founded by Terry and Becky Brennan and Bob and Merrie Schoonover. We are a chapter of the national Pepsi Cola Collector’s Club”

        Anyway, what if some students wanted to get together and study Moses, Hillel, or Adam Smith? They could not call their school club “Iowa University Moses”?

        I guess they will be getting a letter in the mail from
        MOSES Inc. – Grand Rapids, MI – Non-Profit Organization

        I assure you, there are tons of student clubs that call themselves Democrats that have no official relationship to the Democratic Party.

        It’s really only an issue when you start pulling in significant cash like Apple Records and Apple Computers.

        Just call yourselves “Swarthmore _________ Students” and fill in the blank with whatever you want. You are not incorporated, unlike Moses.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 7:16 am

        “One can’t trademark a word that’s only a component of the name.”
        Oh yeah? That would make too much sense to be true. You better watch out that you don’t become famous and some kids use your name for a club, or else they will come up against this one:
        Ron Edwards, Inc., Wilmington, DE 19808

        I am afraid YOU have already been taken, sir.

        (Just joking, I hope you do become famous, in a good way).

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 10:39 am

        @W.Jones —

        Pepsi likes Pepsi fan clubs so is unlikely to sue them. Moreover they are using the trademark in a way that’s non confusing, they are using it in reference to Pepsi cola. You would be talking something like another softdrink calling itself Pepsi.

        “Iowa University Moses”?

        Iowa University obviously has a say there. Moses is a Jewish God (effectively) and thus the 1st amendment applies.

        I assure you, there are tons of student clubs that call themselves Democrats that have no official relationship to the Democratic Party.

        The legal names of the parties are weird since they are quasi governmental agencies. But even if they were private the democratic party likes those groups same as the Pepsi example.

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        December 11, 2013, 9:26 pm

        Hillel is a service mark, not a trademark. Big difference.

        For example, The Swarthmore chapter could leave Hillel (and be free of dues and restrictions) and call itself Hillel at Swarthmore, or Hillel of Main Street and not be in violation of the registered service mark.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 11, 2013, 9:39 pm

        @Ellen —

        I’m having trouble following your logic here. IANAL but my understanding is that a servicemark is a trademark that can be applied to non-packaged goods and rather ambiguous services. So in your theory how does Hillel at Swathmore not get in trouble the moment they sell any kind of service as “Hillel”?

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 7:00 am

        It looks like Moses isn’t the only person who has been incorporated.
        JEFF B INC, AM AN. NEW MEXICO

        I know corporations are people- it looks like people can be corporations too.

      • Ron Edwards
        Ron Edwards
        December 12, 2013, 10:14 am

        Not a lawyer, JeffB, really? I’d never have guessed. Ellen, notice how he’s asking you to answer legal-level hypothetical-situation questions as if he were speaking from authority. Given his admission, he should be investigating the matter first, not challenging you.

        Jeff, here’s a starting hint for your investigation: university organizations and especially student clubs are not profit ventures. They do not “do business,” which makes your talk of leasing buildings and selling services irrelevant, including your argument od baculum concerning Apple – a clear business on business instance. Whether a registered trademark holder can challenge a student club’s use of a single word within that trademark, which is not a unique word to that entity by any means, is the question that you, Mr. Not a Lawyer and Sinking Like a Stone in This Argument, should find some precedent about before looming at Ellen or anyone else with your “oh yeah how about” challenges.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 10:42 am

        @Ron —

        Calm down. As for Hillel’s not having leases, they most certainly do have leases. You are just wrong on the facts.

        As for sinking like a stone. Two days ago you were arguing that Hillel couldn’t possibly be trademarked because, “One can’t trademark a word that’s only a component of the name”. So you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 11:49 am

        Well Jeff B, what I can say is that I am very interested in how this case would turn out legally, and I second Ron Edward’s claim that I would like some case precedent showing an unincorporated student group can be sued for having the same name as a Servicemarked nonprofit organization.

        You commented that if a charity like Hillel named itself Moses, a school club could still call itself Moses because “Moses is a Jewish God (effectively) and thus the 1st amendment applies.”
        I don’t get it. Moses is not a Jewish God. He was a main prophet in the religion. But Hillel was a main theologian for the religion too. It doesn’t make sense that a free speech right would exist in one case and not another.

        It sounds like you are saying a college group can name itself Moses and pursue an agenda that in some way conflicts with a similar, national charity called Moses, because Moses is a central figure in the religion.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 12:09 pm

        I don’t know the answer, but my intuition tells me that you are wrong. I think “Open Hillel” would be OK, as would Swarthmore Hillel, because it is not calling itself Hillel International or holding itself out to be a national network.

        There are cases where charities name themselves after diseases and pursue opposing standpoints on the disease, eg. ______ Society vs. ______ Foundation vs. ______ Association

        It seems hard to believe that a group of students could not set themselves up to study Hillel and then invite a professor to teach them about him who is anti-Zionist, perhaps like Marc Ellis, despite the claim by Hillel International: “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”.
        http://www.jta.org/2013/12/10/news-opinion/united-states/hillel-warns-swarthmore-chapter-over-rejection-of-israel-guidelines#ixzz2nHW8OLLv

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        December 12, 2013, 1:17 pm

        Jeffb, it has nothing to do with logic. A service mark distiguishes a provider of services, not goods. A trademark would be the legal vehicle to register to disguingush goods — such as Pepsi in your example. There are addittional differences you might want to look up if interested.

        “Hillel of the University of Pennsylvania” is registered service mark by the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia. It is not by B’nai B’rth and not in violation of their service mark, Hillel.

        You can register “Jeff B’s Hillel ” if you want, By inserting JeffB’s before “Hillel” you have distingushed it as a unique organization and thus prevented confusion in the public mind. The name Hillel is quite generic and I imagine that if a service mark were applied for today on just Hillel, it might not fly.

        This exchange is important because it reveals that Fingerhut played a dishonest game of intimidation. Do you work for Hillel?

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        December 12, 2013, 1:24 pm

        Ron, yes I noticed this. Thanks. But before asking me to answer silly hypotheticals, he calls into question my ability to think logically. Another means to attack the messenger if you cannot deal with the message or do not know what you are talking about.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 3:06 pm

        @W Jones

        It seems hard to believe that a group of students could not set themselves up to study Hillel and then invite a professor to teach them about him who is anti-Zionist

        Hillel is a religious figure, for his teachings 1st amendment would apply very strongly. Trademark doesn’t matter. And I think the “Hillel Study Group” that studied Hillel could make a 1st amendment defense. And if once in a great while such a group invited an nti-Zionist speaker, they still win.

        But as this moves from Jewish to Jewish affiliated then 1st amendment doesn’t apply as strongly and….

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 3:33 pm

        @Ellen —

        I had exactly this situation with a LLC registration (which includes a DBA in my state). Without getting too specific I wanted the name XY. XY was taken so I had to use XYZ. But… in addition to having to have the Z to distinguish me from XY I also had to be non-competitive and justify that. According to the paperwork had I been competitive my XYZ registration might have been rejected or challenged as being confusing to XY’s customers. I suspect no human actually looked, but… XY has been a nuisance more than once on these sorts of forms and we aren’t remotely likely to get confused (he sells flowers, I sell computer integration services and vendor management services).

        No, I don’t work for Hillel. And I’m pretty sure that JeffB’s Pepsi Cola I’d still get sued. Again Apple Records, Apple Computer don’t seem remotely similar to me or anyone I’ve ever met except for the Beatles and several judges. I think most people can tell Paul McCartney from Steve Jobs but it was still rather expensive.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 3:56 pm

        @W Jones

        showing an unincorporated student group

        To the best of my knowledge local Hillel’s are LLCs. They aren’t just clubs. It is very simple. Hillel of Iowa State which is unsanctioned takes a lease. What name appears on the lease?

        It doesn’t make sense that a free speech right would exist in one case and not another. .. I don’t get it. Moses is not a Jewish God. He was a main prophet in the religion. But Hillel was a main theologian for the religion too. It doesn’t make sense that a free speech right would exist in one case and not another.

        Hillel’s most common usage for an organization is Hillel International. Moses has much a greater range of common usage. Christians know about him, Jesus and Paul both quote him. Moses is a common name in use today like Moses Malone. Moses speaks to HaShem personally, has magic powers, exists in sort of mythic prehistory… Hillel is a real historical figure associated with an actual existent school of teaching and a particular time. I’m giving an opinion here that one is essentially an inherently religious figure and so stronger 1st amendment rules would apply, what I was calling essentially a Jewish God. I understand that Jews are monotheistic and would never actually call Moses a lesser God, but if we were talking Hindus or ancient pagans… we’d classify Moses as one of their gods. IMHO Moses is an inherently religious figure while Hillel is a primarily a brand. They just don’t live at the same level, IMHO.

        Most my point is you can’t use Moses as an analogy for Hillel. The rules that apply to Moses are like the rules that apply to Jesus or Zeus or the Archangel Michael not the rules that apply to Sam Adams Beer.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 5:12 pm

        Your case was about you selling computer services and the other company selling products.

        The Hillel case is about a national, incorporated nonprofit vs. a bunch of students at a school. I don’t get it. They are not applying for a commercial license or incorporation.

        And what about Cancer Society vs. Cancer Association, where they have opposite views about Cancer. I know of a similar situation. They are not commercial organizations.

        I also don’t get how a club studying Hillel can use first amendment as a reason to name their club Hillel, but another group that bases itself on his ideas can’t. Your claim that Hillel is only Jewish “affiliated” seems strange to me. It’s a Jewish organization with a rabbi. At many colleges it is THE Jewish religious organization. How is that less Jewish than a study group without a rabbi?

        I would like to see the court precedent saying this, rather than doing hypotheticals too.

      • Ellen
        Ellen
        December 12, 2013, 7:50 pm

        Jeff you are talking about trade of goods in a comercial arena, your LLC. Not a not-for-profit organization such as Hillel.

        Whatever Jeff……

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        December 13, 2013, 9:21 am

        Hillel is a real historical figure associated with an actual existent school of teaching and a particular time.

        Irrelevant. Hillel is just a name or word that anyone is free to use. As someone explained, it’s meaning is the same as Halal, and thus, it cannot be owned.

        I just Googled the name David Hillel, and discovered he is an optometrist trading under his own name.
        http://www.davidhillel.co.uk/

        Shlomo Hillel was an Iraqi-born Israeli diplomat and politician who served as Speaker of the Knesset.

        There is nothing B’nai Brith can do about it.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 13, 2013, 10:51 am

        @W Jones

        I would like to see the court precedent saying this, rather than doing hypotheticals too.

        There aren’t going to be exact court cases. There are only going to be analogous situations. What the analogy is isn’t even fixed. For example

        The Hillel case is about a national, incorporated nonprofit vs. a bunch of students at a school. I don’t get it. They are not applying for a commercial license or incorporation.

        If they don’t incorporate at all then they aren’t legally a Hillel. Hillel is just a name they call each other. Nothing is happening, so of course no one can get sued. To get sued they have to do financial things like take donation or engage in commerce as Hillel. The local Hillels I know sell stuff and do incorporate so they can institutionally lease property or institutionally have bank accounts. So if your hypothetical has them doing not any of those things then there is no trademark violation because there is no possibly violating act.

        And what about Cancer Society vs. Cancer Association, where they have opposite views about Cancer. I know of a similar situation. They are not commercial organizations.

        No one owns the word “Cancer”. In theory though one could argue they are designed to create confusion and there could be a suit. I don’t know enough about Cancer Association beyond that.

        I also don’t get how a club studying Hillel can use first amendment as a reason to name their club Hillel, but another group that bases itself on his ideas can’t.

        The US has very strong 1st amendment protections. But to maintain those strong protections they have to be narrow. The law thus distinguishes between Religious Organizations which have very very strong protections and Religious Affiliations which have few protections. Most of the law is based on Christian concepts, so it doesn’t fit Judaism all that well. We don’t have sacraments. Arguably we sorta have ordinances but we don’t call them that. This whole thing would be a lot easier to understand if it were a Christian group. But it is not so things are messy.

        You saw an example of this with Tea Party groups that argued that they were religious because their aim was to bring America law closer to biblical definitions of God’s will… The IRS didn’t buy it, because those groups were primarily political. Those groups lost in court. If they had merely been studying how to do these things Theonomy bible study groups then they would have been protected.

        So based on that IMHO a society which studies Hillel can legitimately claim they are primarily engaged in religious worship as Jews understand worship. A society that thinks Hillel was a smart guy and does secular or political stuff can’t. It is a judgement call.

        Your claim that Hillel is only Jewish “affiliated” seems strange to me. It’s a Jewish organization with a rabbi. At many colleges it is THE Jewish religious organization.

        If the Hillel conducts worship services, employs a Rabbi… then they are a religious organizations and they can violate all the trademarks they want. They can be the Jews of the True PepsiCola and Pepsi can’t do anything about it. The strong religious protections kick in. But… they better be careful about not engaging in non-religious activities or they will get their status pulled and then Pepsi will sue them into oblivion.

        I think we are mostly disagreeing on a question of fact about what Hillels do. All these legal distinctions don’t matter until you start getting sued or making enough money that the IRS cares. Then they matter.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 13, 2013, 11:25 am

        Rabbi Hillel is an inherently religious figure, while Moses is associated with a specific school- the Israelite school of religion as opposed to other Abrahamic faiths. Abraham’s belief in one God, use of circumcision, etc. can be considered a religion and Islam, Judaism, can be considered schools of it. Moses also had to deal with a school of the Israelite religion that disagreed with him and considered all Israelites to be priests (Moses killed them, I think). Thus, Moses was not the only school in his religion, as he had competitors who worshipped the same God.

        People still follow the religions/schools of Moses and Hillel and yet also find differences with it, since there are some followers of Judaism that believe it is OK not to do some things Moses said to do, eg. in Leviticus. I am sure there are some who practice Judaism who openly disagree with Moses, just as there are some who disagree with Hillel.

        It’s obviously incorrect that “if we were talking Hindus or ancient pagans… we’d classify Moses as one of their gods.” In fact, we would only classify him as a legendary man who had interactions with God. Moses does not live on Mount Olympus and was not a physical descendant of Zeus or Chronos.

        This is why Moses, Hillel, and other religious leaders are analogous. Further, even if I accept that Moses is a god, which is incorrect, and that Hillel is only a nonreligious figure, which is also incorrect, then we still have the problem of what to do with other famous nonreligious figures like George Washington. There are tons and tons of nonprofits with Washington in their name pursuing either competing or different agendas.

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        December 11, 2013, 11:07 pm

        Hillel is a modern Hebrew transliteration of the Arabic and Hebrew word Halal. (Rabbi Hillel was Babylonian , modern Iraq).

        You can’t trademark an arabic adjective.

  5. irishmoses
    irishmoses
    December 11, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I think the key here is that Swarthmore Hillel is self-funded and not subject to the normal pressure of the purse strings. I imagine the next move will be to drum them out of Hillel; make them change their name. It’s going to be a fun fight to watch.

    Swarthmore, with its Quaker tradition, will be up to the task unlike UC Berkeley and the rest of the UC system whose new lobby-friendly president, Janet Napolitano, apparently believes First Amendment protections are not extended to those who dare criticize Israel. Napolitano, as you may recall, found nothing amiss when informed that 95 percent of her Homeland Security budget for community protection was going to Jewish organizations.

    The new formal relationship between Hillel and AIPAC demonstrates how pervasive the Zionist Lobby influence is in this country. Hopefully this battle will be centered around and framed by that formal relationship.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      December 11, 2013, 2:38 pm

      ” 95 percent of her Homeland Security budget for community protection was going to Jewish organizations. ” ???

      The government does not really care about Muslim terrorism as a real threat, anyway, which is why they fund Al Qaida in Libya and Syria. The real issue has been what we saw planned for Iraq and the long line of other Muslim countries. It’s been a tool.

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      December 11, 2013, 11:11 pm

      Whats happening at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, other Quaker schools who in the past were fervent advocates of BDS towards Apartheid ?

      Anyone at MW know whose trying to organize these campuses?

  6. annie
    annie
    December 11, 2013, 12:27 pm

    Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines. No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.

    when he says “that uses the Hillel name” does he mean the “Hillel International” name, or the name Hillel? Because “Open Hillel” is another name as is “Swarthmore Hillel”. and perhaps Hillel International has already incorporated the name Swarthmore Hillel but unless Hillel International downright owns the name Hillel, then i don’t see how they can prevent having the name Hillel also used in combination with other words and names aside from ones Hillel International is already using.

    can he really say “No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise” ? because if he can then why couldn’t another org co-opt the name ‘jesus’ or ‘moses’ or ‘washington’ or ‘kennedy’ for that matter?

    can they own the name Hillel?

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      December 11, 2013, 2:40 pm

      Yes, anyone in reality can take these names.

      I can guess ahead of time how this might work out. It’s basically a hole in the dam.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      December 11, 2013, 6:42 pm

      @Annie

      B’nai B’rith International owns the trademark on the word “Hillel”. So yes they can and do own the word.

      Hillel is not a religious organization it is a religiously affiliated organization. The difference in another context was made clear during the debate on coverage for Catholic Hospitals this year. Hillels don’t have the 1st Amendment problem or protections. So it isn’t like Moses or Jesus. It would be more like Moses Coffee.

      Anyway Hillel on their own web page says they were “adopted” by B’nai B’rith in 1924. So I’m assuming they are effectively a subsidiary non-profit or something legally. And yes B’nai B’rith would sue a Hillel that wanted to go on using the name and not follow their rules, and they would win.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 7:28 am

        Let’s go with the Catholic Hospital example. A Catholic Hospital network is called St. Ignatius International. Out in Anchorage there is a group of volunteer paramedic students at a medical institute that call themselves Anchorage St. Ignatius. Sometimes they raise money or sell tickets to their events, and then they use it to go on trips.

        Who wins the law suit between the two?

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 3:08 pm

        @W Jones

        Is the St. Ignatius International trademark national or state? If so how did the paramedic kids get the DBA for Anchorage St. Ignatius from Alaska? Did they clearly indicate they were potentially competitive, did they indicate that there was no possibility for confusion. Did they fail to check…?

        That’s the first step in your hypothetical.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        December 12, 2013, 5:17 pm

        JeffB,

        You are asking me about whether the hypothetical medical student group had to answer competition questions in applying for an official state trade name.
        Swarthmore Hillel does not have a registered trade name, or DBA, with the state, I am sure. There are tons of student clubs at colleges, and most of them do not register their names with state government.

        You could have the Iowa U. “Lions” that does nonprofit work, even though they never care to register a trade name with a state government or think about the fraternal Lions Club.

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        December 12, 2013, 8:02 am

        And yes B’nai B’rith would sue a Hillel that wanted to go on using the name and not follow their rules, and they would win.

        All they would win are court costs, seeing as they would be unable to claim loss of income or financial losses

      • Woody Tanaka
        Woody Tanaka
        December 12, 2013, 10:01 am

        “All they would win are court costs, seeing as they would be unable to claim loss of income or financial losses”

        They can also win injunctive relief, as well.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 12, 2013, 3:11 pm

        @Shingo

        Of course they could claim financial loss. The Hillel version 2 tarnished their good name which resulted in loss of donations….

  7. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    December 11, 2013, 12:45 pm

    HI/Fingerhut: Hillel is also, as the guidelines state, “steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders as a member of the family of nations.”

    Suppose he’d said, Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of the earth as a flat and decidedly non-spherical entity? can he make the eath flat by being steadfast in declaring it so?

    And if a lot of Jews (or even a few Jews) want to criticize (or distance themselves from) Israel, what does Hillel’s “if I am not for myself” mean for them? And what business has HI got interfering with what Jews (or anyone else) believe, especially on moral and ethical questions.

    Thought police were “big” in the times and places of the Imperial Japanese government (until 1945), and, I suppose, USSR, Nazi Germany, and other totalitarian places.

    One must ask why totalitarianization has such a strong appeal to Jewish establishment organizations.

    • JeffB
      JeffB
      December 12, 2013, 3:24 pm

      @pabelmont–

      Suppose he’d said, Hillel is steadfastly committed to the support of the earth as a flat and decidedly non-spherical entity? can he make the eath flat by being steadfast in declaring it so?

      Yes. If the owner of a trademark wants the trademark associated with flat earth using it to promote round earth views is a tort. B’nai B’rith owns the word. He doesn’t make the world round but he makes it the official policy of his group. You can feel free to found your own group and have different official policy.

      One must ask why totalitarianization has such a strong appeal to Jewish establishment organizations.

      Let’s cool the hyperbole. The Jewish establishment isn’t torturing anyone or setting up a secret police force. They are just protecting their brand. There feeling is (and I understand you disagree) that you can’t be legitimately Jewish and anti-Zionist (i.e. actively working to harm Jews).

      To put this in Christian terms… Jews are having a debate about whether anti-Zionism is a non-mainstream view, heresy or outright apostasy. You want it to be a non-mainstream view Hillel wants it to be heresy. And it is long established that churches have the right to prevent others from preach heresies from a Hillel subsidized pulpit.

      It is exactly the same thing the mainstream Jewish organizations do with Messianic Jewish organizations where the Jewish establishment claims you can’t be legitimately Jewish and believe in Jesus as the messiah. It is exactly the same thing that Mormons do when they go after the FLDS (a polygamous Later Day Saints Sect which takes a literal approach to Brigham Young’s teachings)…

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        December 13, 2013, 9:16 am

        B’nai B’rith owns the word.

        No they do not as has been explained to you already. They have no claim to how it is used and by whom – which is why there is no legal warning contained in that letter that anyone using it faces legal action in the event they fail to adhere to B’nai B’rith’s stipulations.

        The Jewish establishment isn’t torturing anyone or setting up a secret police force.

        True, they are simply enabling Israel to do it and supporting such abuses.

        They are just protecting their brand

        Non profits don’t have brands, and there is no precedent where non profits have successfully sued student groups for the use of a word.

      • JeffB
        JeffB
        December 13, 2013, 11:40 am

        @Shingo —

        Of course non profits have brands. They own property, they pay salaries, they purchase equipment.

        There are plenty of precedents where non-profits have successfully sued and in fact had people jailed for using their brand. The Federal Trade Commission has a small division which helps prosecute such cases. The Department of Defense has an arm which investigates groups that misuse the brand names of veterans organizations in their fund raising.

  8. Cina
    Cina
    December 11, 2013, 3:16 pm

    There is a petition circulating to show support to Swarthmore Hillel.

    http://swatpetition.openhillel.org/

  9. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    December 11, 2013, 5:21 pm

    Swarthmore Hillel has written back to Eric Fingerhut in the most diplomatic language.
    His name is really funny. “Fingerhut” is the German word for “thimble”.

  10. German Lefty
    German Lefty
    December 11, 2013, 5:23 pm

    By the way, I just found this:
    From Zionist to Anti-Zionist Activist – Phyllis Bennis on Reality Asserts Itself pt1
    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=11114

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      December 11, 2013, 8:22 pm

      you know, it was one of these–. Really? Twenty-two caliber? You know, it was like they wanted to scare. They didn’t. It all seemed very stupid.

      She has a sense of courage.

  11. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    December 13, 2013, 2:36 pm

    To a question on whether the chapter would be allowed to call itself Open Hillel, Richard Falk replied:

    Richard Falk, December 13, 2013
    Or maybe Global Hillel? In any event, Swarthmore has set a hopeful precedent that hopefully will spread to other chapters!

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