Open Hillel sent out the following press release today:
Cambridge, MA – May 15th, 2014 – Open Hillel announced today that it will be holding a national conference this fall. The conference will take place from October 11-13 at Harvard University.
The conference will bring in speakers spanning the spectrum of political views on Israel-Palestine. Organizers plan to particularly focus on including those — such as Judith Butler, David Harris-Gershon, and Rashid Khalidi — who have recently been banned from speaking at Jewish institutions. The conference will include panels, discussion groups, and trainings, and will tackle issues related to Israel-Palestine as well as other issues facing the American Jewish community.
Open Hillel is a national grassroots organization of Jewish college students and young alumni working to promote inclusion and broaden the discourse on Israel-Palestine within campus Jewish communities. The campaign’s main goal is to eliminate Hillel International’s “Standards of Partnership,” which ban co-sponsorships, speaker events, and affiliations with organizations or individuals whose political views on Israel-Palestine are out of line with Hillel’s policies. More broadly, the Open Hillel campaign seeks to promote discussion on Israel-Palestine that spans the full range of political views found within the Jewish community.
Since Open Hillel was launched in January 2013, it has grown to include over a thousand supporters and nearly 50 student organizers from dozens of schools across the country. This conference marks the first occasion on which these organizers and supporters will come together in one location to discuss the campaign, their views on Israel-Palestine, and other issues facing the American Jewish community.
In keeping with the grassroots nature of Open Hillel, conference organizers have launched a crowd-sourcing fundraiser to cover speaker fees, space costs, and other expenses associated with the conference.
The conference is a response not only to Hillel International’s policies, but also the recent slew of speaker cancellations and other actions of exclusion by major American Jewish organizations. “One conference — The Conference of Presidents — has put most of its effort lately into the exclusion of Jewish voices,” says Lex Rofes, an Open Hillel steering committee member who graduated from Brown in 2013. “Our conference will instead focus on inclusion. We are inviting all who are interested to attend a communal event that will deepen and broaden our knowledge of crucially important issues facing our world and of one another.”
“The conference will provide a platform for substantive conversations–in particular among Jewish university students in the U.S.–concerning Israel-Palestine and the many other contemporary issues Jews in the U.S. face,” says Henry Rosen, a freshman at Vassar and member of the Open Hillel steering committee. “That excites me because I have felt my views brushed aside, and I have seen my friends opinions invalidated, misrepresented, or ignored.”