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Jewish students at Williams blast Hillel for booting LGBTQ group after it co-sponsored event with JVP


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.”

Open Hillel campaign on behalf of B’nai Keshet, LGBTQ Jewish group at Ohio State University

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.

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9 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    May 6, 2017, 12:43 pm

    My sense is that Hill International, once-upon-a-time organized as a “Jewish” organization, has elected to recast itself as a “Mandatorily Zionist” (not to say “totalitarian”) organization (and thus, IMO, decidedly not “Jewish”).

    Accordingly, it seems to me, all students seeking membership in a “Jewish” organization — irrespective of their position on the political business of Zionism — should immediately leave Hillel International, and do so noisily, and find another home. Perhaps they can find a home under another religious roof, say, use a campus Christian group’s facilities on Saturday, or something of the kind. Maybe they can form a “Jewish Club” on campus (like JVP or SJP).

    But, mainly, quit, leave, abandon, abominate, despise HI. and let everyone know (and know why).

    Imagine if some campus Hillel lost 50% of its membership in a “noisy” withdrawal of the sort I’ve suggested. Imagine if this idea caught on and it happened in campus-after-campus-after-campus.

    Jewish students affirming Jewish identity and disaffirming Mandatory Zionist (totalitarian) identity.

    Be a good thing.

    • Keith
      May 6, 2017, 4:22 pm

      PABELMONT- “Accordingly, it seems to me, all students seeking membership in a “Jewish” organization….”

      Why would one wish to seek membership in an exclusively Jewish organization other than to affirm kinship solidarity? For example, if the “Model Railroad Club” is open to all, why seek out a Jewish model railroad club? How would one describe those who sought membership in an exclusively Goyishe organization?

      • May 7, 2017, 11:09 am

        Coming soon — this summer!! — the 20th Maccabiah Games!! What the appeal is to being part of the world’s third-fastest Jewish relay-racing team has always alluded me. Gold for ethnically-driven chutzpah, though.

      • Citizen
        May 8, 2017, 8:55 am

        Good question.

      • Citizen
        May 8, 2017, 9:11 am

        There’s a list of Jewish clubs here:
        Some of them were reactively created when Jews were not allowed in some clubs and fraternities. This would not include any model railroad club.

  2. Rob Roy
    Rob Roy
    May 6, 2017, 1:00 pm

    I just returned from Cuba where equality of all citizens exists. The lack of religion after the revolution eliminated inequality as did the lack of social strata based on income. It was the most refreshing atmosphere of any country I’ve been in and I’ve traveled the world. The pettiness that is inevitable in adversities in religions wasn’t there. There was no discrimination toward LGBTQ people. Judaism prides itself on values that are often warped into hate. Cheers to those Jews who maintain their inclusiveness toward the LBGTQ community.

    • JosephA
      May 7, 2017, 12:57 pm

      Rob, thanks for the insight. I have always wanted to go to Cuba. A friend of mine, from Mexico, went and told me it was rather depressing overall. I am glad you took away a much better experience.

    [email protected]
    May 7, 2017, 4:40 pm

    I think a major point here is missing from these posts. Hillel argues that it won’t work with any group that partners with groups that support BDS. Well here in Oregon, at the university of Oregon in Eugene, Hillel is co-sponsoring weekly dialogue groups with the Arab Student Union as well as the Muslim Student group at the university, both of whom support BDS. So Hillel goes after a GLBTQ group in Ohio who co-sponsors with JVP because they support BDS while at the same time happily co-sponsor events with Oregon BDS supporters. A major serving of hypocrisy and a major line of defense for the Ohio group. How can Hillel throw out an Ohio group while continuing to sponsor the Oregon one?

    • festus
      May 8, 2017, 7:24 pm

      “Well here in Oregon, at the university of Oregon in Eugene, Hillel is co-sponsoring weekly dialogue groups with the Arab Student Union as well as the Muslim Student group at the university, both of whom support BDS.”

      I find this highly unlikely. Hillel is consistent in their unwillingness to have anything to do with pro Palestinians groups and excludes Jews who are not.

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