Hillel warns Swarthmore chapter over rejection of Israel guidelines
NEW YORK (JTA)—Hillel International warned its Swarthmore College chapter that it cannot use the Hillel name if it flouts the international Jewish campus group’s Israel guidelines.
Hillel delivered the warning in a sharply worded letter following the Swarthmore chapter student board’s decision to repudiate Hillel guidelines prohibiting partnerships with groups deemed hostile toward Israel.
In his letter, Hillel’s president and CEO, Eric Fingerhut, warned Swarthmore Hillel’s student communications coordinator, Joshua Wolfsun, that the chapter’s rejection of the guidelines “is not acceptable.”
“I hope you will inform your colleagues on the Student Board of Swarthmore Hillel that Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines,” Fingerhut wrote. “No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.”
The Hillel student board at the Pennsylvania liberal arts college voted unanimously to reject the Hillel guidelines for campus Israel activities. Swarthmore became the first chapter of the Jewish campus organization to declare itself an “Open Hillel”—part of a student movement that says its goal is to “encourage inclusivity and open discourse at campus Hillels.”
Hillel International’s Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities reject partnerships with groups or hosting speakers who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state; delegitimize, demonize or apply double standards to Israel; support boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel; or foster an atmosphere of incivility.
The policy encourages individual campus Hillels to adopt their own policies that are “consistent” with these guidelines.
The Swarthmore Hillel student board’s resolution said the guidelines “privilege only one perspective on Zionism, and make others unwelcome.” The resolution said that Swarthmore Hillel “will host and partner with any speaker at the discretion of the board, regardless of Hillel International’s Israel guidelines.”
Swarthmore Hillel had said in a statement: “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.”
Fingerhut, in his letter, rejected the formulation.
“Let me be very clear—‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances,” he wrote.
Wolfsun had previously told the Forward that Swarthmore Hillel did not need to worry about financial repercussions.
“We are funded by our own endowment and have no board of overseers,” he said.