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March 11, 2014 12:07 pm
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Open Hillel Isn’t Actually Open”Ž

avatar by Daniel Mael

Opinion

Eric Fingerhut, Hillel's president and CEO. Photo: Shahar Azran for Hillel.

The concept of “Open Hillel” is an abstract, and sometimes intellectually dishonest, slogan that legitimizes bigotry and hatred under the guise of civil discourse.

Every organization has a purpose – a mission. Hillel International’s mission is to foster a Jewish life on campus, which includes the centrality of Israel for the Jewish people. The NAACP’s mission is to promote the welfare of African Americans. Would the NAACP tolerate an “Open NAACP” event and invite the KKK and other bigots to attend for the sake of openness? Sometimes they don’t even invite conservative African Americans like Dr. Ben Carson.

Open Hillel’s main concern is that Hillel International does not let them partner with, or sponsor as speakers, those who deny Israel’s right to exist, or who delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.

Every organization draws a line as to what is acceptable discourse for that organization. Hillel is no different – nor should it be. Events or speakers in favor of Hamas, Hezbollah, or BDS should obviously not be sponsored, funded, encouraged, or enabled by Hillel. The center for Jewish life on campus shouldn’t invite intolerant speakers who advocate the advancement of the Iranian genocidal nuclear program. In fact, Hillel should actively condemn such hatred.

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Given that there are ideas simply beyond the pale, the idea of “completely open” is dishonest. Certain political and personal opinions are unacceptable. “Open Hillel” seeks to welcome known bigots, haters, and anti-Semites into the Hillel tent and allow them to preach lies and hatred in the form of anti-Israel or anti-Semitic rants.

Hillel is not a public forum where all questions about Jews and Israel must be debated. Universities have numerous speech codes and restrictions so as to not offend certain minorities. There is no ‘open university’ in America. Open Hillel is demanding of Hillel what they are not demanding of university administrations. Open Hillel is not concerned that pro-Israel speakers are often disinvited or prevented from speaking on college campuses. They only want anti-Israel speakers to have the chance to speak – and not just on campus or in the classroom, but also inside Hillel buildings.”Ž

Some may say that hearing differing opinions is extremely important to being a “full fledged” Zionist. What an Orwellian twist of logic – you have to listen, understand, and provide legitimacy to pure lies in the form of Jew hatred to be a truly open-minded person?

Not all topics are debatable. No decent person will debate the legitimacy of racism, or Israel’s right to exist.

It is deeply saddening to see misguided students identify with organizations and speakers dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish State and the end of Zionism.

Hillel International already creates a safe and open space for students to celebrate Judaism. The Jewish community, liberal and conservative alike, must stand united against the enabling of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist hatred, especially in our own house.

Not in our tent. Not now and not ever.

Daniel Mael is a junior at Brandeis University and co-founder of Safe Hillel.

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