Update on Brandeis

April 1, 2011

1,000 Brandeis Students and Faculty Call on Brandeis Hillel to Reconsider Its Herem Against Jewish Voice for Peace – and Hillel Continues To Say “Nyet”

Jeremiah Haber, 30 March 2011

[See the earlier posting Divisions in the US Jewish community surface at Brandeis]

On Monday night, the Jewish Voice for Peace at Brandeis presented the Brandeis Hillel Student Board with a petition with a thousand signatures calling on Hillel to reconsider its refusal to allow JVP be a member group. The Hillel Student board, predictably, said that it would not reconsider.

According to Fiona Lockyer,

Hillel President Andrea Wexler ’11 said that Hillel is “not constitutionally subject to appeal by petition, which means that while [JVP is] welcome to appeal, … we would need to see a different constitution which would be more in-line with our views,” and she did not ask for a revote from the Hillel e-board.

“You are always welcome in our meetings, you are welcome to resubmit your constitution, you are welcome to appeal, but our constitution stands. We have already voted on it … and thus we will not reconsider,” Wexler said. “We don’t see JVP as falling under our mission statement.”

Or as the New York Post headline writer would say, “Brandeis Hillel to Jewish Voice of Peace Students: Drop Dead.”

Among the strange things cited, the following takes the cake::

Hillel Education Coordinator Hannah Pollack ’13 said, “If you want to define [Hillel] as the Jewish community, that would mean that any of the Jews on campus that don’t associate themselves with us are not part of the Jewish community. There’s Chabad on campus, there’s lots of Jews that just choose … not to be a part of us. You’re not being excluded by the Jewish community by not being under the Hillel umbrella.

She has a point. You can join a heretical messianic cult like Chabad and not be under the Hillel umbrella. Or you can be one of the thousands of Jews who couldn’t give a darn about Hillel or Judaism, the great disaffected. Hillel never cares about engagement, does it? Doesn’t fall within their mission, according to Ms. Pollack. Jews doing Jewish? Jews engaged with their tradition? At Hillel? Hah!

But Brandeis Hillel’s website announces:

Hillel is the nerve center of that Jewish community, and its mission is to promote individual student growth as well as enrich the life of the campus as a whole. Hillel at Brandeis supports over 20 student clubs, performing arts groups, and special project committees each year!

So while you can be a Jewish group at Brandeis (say, Jews for Jesus, or the Zionist Freedom Alliance), you can’t be within the nerve center of the Jewish community if Ms.Pollack and her ilk have their way.

I, for one, would like to know what other Jewish groups has Brandeis Hillel’s executive board rejected?

Hillel Campus Relations Coordinator Erica Shaps ’13 expressed a desire for co-sponsored activities between Hillel and JVP and said that the debate “presents us with the unique opportunity to show the world what discourse and dialogue on a college campus looks like and to say that it’s complicated.”

Please let me know, Ms. Shaps, when Hillel reaches out to JVP and offers to co-sponsor activities. I will be the first to blog about that. Because you see, that is completely against the Hillel National Guidelines, which state:

Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice,,, Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.

JVP supports a boycott of settlers’ goods and the artists’ refusal to appear over the Green Line. And yet Ms. Shaps, to her credit, expresses a desire to co-sponsor activities. Figure that out

Until that time, my advice to Brandeis JVP is simple: Get organized politically, and make sure that you have strong representation on the next Hillel executive board. If the board is elected – frankly, I don’t know that it s – make sure to get those who voted in favor of excluding kicked off the board.

Of course, the good news is that all this publicity has provided new members and new allies for Brandeis Jewish Voice for Peace at Brandeis – and made Brandeis Hillel look like a reactionary and close-minded institution, run by AIPAC.

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