The campus organization Open Hillel aims to reform the rules followed by campus Hillel houses that prohibit partnership with certain organizations, specifically those that endorse boycotts of Israel. While Open Hillel claims that its goal is to make Hillel more inclusive, its real objective seems to be to make it more anti-Israel, or to shut it down completely, as evidenced by a recent amicus brief submitted by Open Hillel in favor of San Francisco State University (SFSU). SFSU is currently being sued by Jewish students who claim that it has done nothing to stem the tide of anti-Semitism on its campus, including a decision by a university civil-rights fair to exclude the school’s Hillel chapter from participating. David Schraub comments:
The argument [in the brief] was striking: the [school’s] deliberate targeting of Hillel for exclusion from campus life . . . should not even be seen as potential evidence plausibly suggesting anti-Semitism. Open Hillel’s view is that attempts to shut out and shut down Hillel cannot be considered anti-Semitism because not all Jews are represented by Hillel. [Thus] Open Hillel seems indifferent to how excluding Hillel from university activities would impact the many Jews for whom Hillel occupies a central role in campus Jewish life. It is entirely reasonable for these Jews to perceive efforts to target Hillel for isolation and expulsion as a denial of their equal standing on campus. . . .
Open Hillel . . . could have very easily asserted that while debates over Hillel International’s policies are both desirable and legitimate, debates over whether the primary space for Jewish communal life on campus should be expunged are not. Such a position would have been easily harmonized with Open Hillel’s putative commitments to pluralism and open engagement. After all, how can Hillel be “open” to a campus that refuses to allow it in the door?
Instead, Open Hillel actively chose to align itself with groups who seek to drive Hillel from campus outright. It is not just at SFSU, either—from Cal Poly to Stony Brook to the University of Ottawa, campus activists have grown increasingly emboldened in asserting that Hillel’s association with Israel necessitates that it be isolated and if possible extirpated from the university setting entirely. This has historical precedent as well: it chillingly echoes the concerted campaign in the 1970s and 80s to ban Jewish Societies from British campuses on account of their alleged “intrinsic racism.” . . .
There is a willful blindness here, the sort that can keep a straight face while asserting that Hillel’s exclusion from campus life has nothing to do with Jewish exclusion (as if Hillel’s Jewish character was a random coincidence ungermane to the controversy); or that can pretend not to understand the difference between sharp critique of Hillel’s policies and seeking to expunge it from campus life outright. Most of us know better: we understand there are forms of anti-Semitism that attack some Jews while affirming others, just as there are forms of misogyny that strike at some women while valorizing others. That many Jews would perceive the targeting of Hillel for excommunication from university life as an act of anti-Semitic exclusion is neither mysterious nor idiosyncratic.