Open Hillel holds conference with BDS-supporting speakers

Eric Fingerhut, Hillel International's president and CEO, speaks with former student board member JoHanna Rothseid. Credit: Shahar Azran for Hillel.

( Open Hillel, a student movement calling on Hillel International—the Jewish campus umbrella represented at more than 550 colleges and universities—to allow the expression of more diverse points of view on Israel, held a conference from Oct. 11-13 in Cambridge, Mass.

Conference participants included those who believe in a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, as well as those who believe in just one state for two peoples. One of the speakers was well-known Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activist Judith Butler. The organizers of the conference said that they tried to also attract pro-Israel speakers, but that none of the organizations and individuals they reached out to agreed to participate, reported Haaretz.

In September, Hillel International President and CEO Eric Fingerhut tried to dispel the notion that the campus umbrella organization is not inclusive by meeting with student representatives of Open Hillel.

“We are a pro-Israel organization. It is part of our mission to encourage students to build an enduring commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic homeland. That is what we are, [and] that leaves within it a broad range to debate Israel’s policies, and where Israel might be right or wrong on particular issues,” Fingerhut told at the time. 

“We had a good and candid discussion and I appreciate [Open Hillel’s] viewpoints,” he added.

Daniel Mael, a junior at Brandeis University and co-founder of the Safe Hillel campus movement, which was created in response to Open Hillel, told that although students are free to express any views at Hillel, the umbrella organization is not stifling student opinions by living up to a mission statement that precludes it from sponsoring programs featuring hate groups or anti-Semitic and anti-Israel speakers.

Posted on October 15, 2014 .