Op-Ed | Is Hillel truly “the foundation for Jewish campus life” for all Jews?
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 08:11
Recently, Harvard Hillel approved and then disapproved an event, “Jewish Voices Against the Israeli Occupation,” co−sponsored by Harvard Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA), a Harvard Hillel affiliated group, and the Palestine Solidarity Committee. I was excited to learn this would be hosted at Hillel because it seemed as if things were changing, and the voices of Jews against the occupation of Palestine were being heard. Unfortunately, Harvard Hillel decided it could not host the event because the Harvard Palestinian Solidarity Committee was co−sponsoring it. This event was amazing and spoke to every difficult feeling, I, as a Jew, have had about Israel and Palestine. Despite only featuring Jewish speakers and being an event directed at Jewish students, this event was not Jewish enough to be housed at “the foundation for Jewish campus life.” As I reflect on Harvard Hillel’s actions and on the Hillel Israel Guidelines, I wonder who gets to decide how I practice my Judaism? Who gets to decide how I interpret and respond to current events in Israel and Palestine? I find it hard to believe that Hillel can be both the “foundation for Jewish campus life” and exclude Jewish students’ voices because of political views.
Tufts SJP would never ask to cosponsor an event with Hillel or FOI. They know it would be immediately rejected because of the aforementioned guidelines. However, the Israel Guidelines are mere suggestions that individual Hillels can choose to follow, not required guidelines. In light of this fact, I call on Tufts Hillel to end the hypocrisy and create its own inclusive Israel Guidelines in order to promote dialogue about Israel/Palestine. Tufts Hillel should become an open space, where “tzedek” and “tikkun olam” are encouraged for all. Harvard PJA has written a petition calling on Hillel International to end their discriminatory Israel Guidelines. I pray that it will be successful and that students here will take a stand with me so that Hillel can truly be the “foundation for Jewish campus life.”
It is my Jewish values that have led me to support the Palestinian people, while condemning the violence committed by both sides. My religion teaches me, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). The very man for whom Hillel is named said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” These words inspire me to stand up for the Palestinians because if I do not, what am I? I am a proud Jewish member of SJP and JVP because I know standing with the Palestinians is in line with Jewish values. I hope that one day I can feel comfortable as a pro−Palestinian Jew in the Tufts Hillel community and that Hillel International will be the “foundation for Jewish campus life” for all Jews.
Julia Wedgle is a sophomore who is the interfaith co-chair on Hillel’s Programming Board. She can be reached at Julia.Wedgle@tufts.edu.