Headlines, Guidelines, and Red Lines

In late December of 2013 a story broke in the New York Times of a controversy within Hillel in North America. A group of students at Swarthmore Hillel had chosen to declare themselves an “Open Hillel”, in defiance of National Hillel’s Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities. The response of Hillel President Eric Fingerhut was clear, and the debate set off…

Here is our contribution to the conversation, and an alternative perspective from Keith Kahn-Harris.


The L word and Israel

February 14, 2014 by

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Image by Neil Mercer

I would like to talk about the L word.


It is a word that went out of fashion many moons ago for many people, but it still lives in our relationships.  To Full Post

Hillel Open and Closed: 5 comments

February 9, 2014 by

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Mahatma Gandhi once famously said: “I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

It would seem that the gusts of wind currently swirling through the Hillel environment are throwing up a similar assumption and a similar question. The assumption is that Hillel is someone’s home which visitors are welcome to enrich but not to change. And there is a hanging question as to what might knock us off our feet?

A fascinating and healthy discourse has emerged over National Hillel’s guidelines for Israel programming on campus. We at Makom have been following the discourse with great interest. As key advisors to the Hillel-Jewish Agency Israel Engaged Campus initiative, as seasoned practitioners of complex dialogue on Israel throughout the Jewish community, and as consultants to Jewish organizations around the world on exactly the same issue of guidelines and red lines – we’ve noticed a few anomalies and a few opportunities. To Full Post

Drawing the lines

February 8, 2014 by

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Recent controversies within the American Jewish community over what kinds of Israel-related activity should be allowed within Hillel Houses, raise issues that are much bigger than just student life on campus. Debates about Open Hillel and Swathmore College, touch on questions of communal boundaries and in particular of what ‘red lines’ Jewish institutions should draw in excluding some kinds of Jews.

 Israel, once a unifying factor in Jewish communities, has become a source of communal discord

In my forthcoming book Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community (David Paul Books), I discuss how Israel, once a unifying factor in Jewish communities, has become a source of communal discord. I argue that a plurality of Jewish positions on Israel have emerged in recent years and that supporters of these positions often come into conflict with Jews who hold other views. In response, I make the case that it is essential that Jewish communities begin to come to terms with the divisions within them. To Full Post

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