We have welcomed the Open Hillel movement as evidence that young American Jews are now the leaders of the American Jewish community: they are rejecting Hillel’s red lines barring anti-Zionists and boycotters from participating in campus organizational life. Now here is a column in the Florida Sun-Sentinel/Jewish Journal from an older rabbi, Bruce Warshal, also condemning Hillel’s red lines, saying he has quit an honorary Hillel board to protest the bar on free speech.
Notice who is leading this conversation! Warshal is about 80, a leader of Peace Now who has said Israel is headed for apartheid. But he was not moved to say anything against Hillel’s obnoxious red lines for four years. Until the students organized. Excerpts (thanks to Barbara Harvey):
It is with a heavy heart that I write this column. I have long been a supporter of the Hillel movement on college campuses….
I also played a significant role in obtaining the funding for the Hillel building on the Florida Atlantic University campus. I have served on the board of directors of my local Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, on its executive board and recently on its honorary board. But, regrettably, I have resigned from the honorary board, and I am publicly declaring that I am getting off the Hillel bandwagon.
Hillel is no longer the Hillel of yesteryears. In 2010 the national Hillel issued guidelines as to what is permissible dialogue at Hillel — speakers who “delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel,” support boycotts, divestments or sanctions against Israel or “foster an atmosphere of incivility” are banned from Hillel. This has essentially banned all liberal Jews who love Israel but disagree with the current Netanyahu government from Hillel involvement….
I refuse to let my Zionism dominate my Judaism. The love of Israel is only a part of Judaism. The Zionist movement is only 150 years old; Israel is only 65 years old. Judaism has existed for thousands of years without both. Unfortunately, for too many years American Jewry has made Israel the major part of its Judaism. It’s a part, but not the major part.
Also consider what Warshal says about what is driving the Hillel policy, money. Jewish organizations fear they will lose their big donors if they even break bread with liberal Zionists!
Money — money from conservative Federations, and major donors who are committed to AIPAC and fear a more liberal Jewish lobby. In Boca Raton, my Jewish Federation does not accept J Street on its Community Relations Board, as if it were an outpost of the PLO. I believe that this, too, is a capitulation to a couple of major conservative donors. Money talks.
Every year my local Hillel sends students to the AIPAC national conference, paid for with a donation by a local AIPAC supporter. Last year I spoke with a prominent lay leader on the Hillel board and offered to pay the expenses of some students to the J Street national conference. I was advised not to do that since it would put the board in a precarious position with some major givers. This melding of Hillel with the right-wing supporters of Israel was publicly confirmed when leaders of Hillel and AIPAC recently published an essay in the New York Jewish Week hailing their partnership on campuses.
The Israel lobby gains its power in the political process by telling politicians that they can’t get money from Jews unless they take rightwing positions on Israel. That conservative hegemony is changing, but too slowly. The liberal Zionist group Peace Now, for instance, is on the board of the Conference of Presidents, a rightwing Zionist organization that refuses to criticize the occupation, out of a communal impulse and a desire to maintain access to power.