Wednesday, March 30, 2011

1,000 Brandeis Students and Faculty Call on Brandeis Hillel to Reconsider Its Herem Against Jewish Voice for Peace – and Hillel Continues To Say “Nyet”

On Monday night, the Jewish Voice for Peace at Brandeis presented the Brandeis Hillel Student Board with a petition with a thousand signatures calling on Hillel to reconsider its refusal to allow JVP be a member group. The Hillel Student board, predictably, said that it would not reconsider.

According to Fiona Lockyer,

Hillel President Andrea Wexler '11 said that Hillel is "not constitutionally subject to appeal by petition, which means that while [JVP is] welcome to appeal, ... we would need to see a different constitution which would be more in-line with our views," and she did not ask for a revote from the Hillel e-board.

"You are always welcome in our meetings, you are welcome to resubmit your constitution, you are welcome to appeal, but our constitution stands. We have already voted on it ... and thus we will not reconsider," Wexler said. "We don't see JVP as falling under our mission statement."

Or as the New York Post headline writer would say, "Brandeis Hillel to Jewish Voice of Peace Students: Drop Dead."

Among the strange things cited, the following takes the cake::

Hillel Education Coordinator Hannah Pollack '13 said, "If you want to define [Hillel] as the Jewish community, that would mean that any of the Jews on campus that don't associate themselves with us are not part of the Jewish community. There's Chabad on campus, there's lots of Jews that just choose ... not to be a part of us. You're not being excluded by the Jewish community by not being under the Hillel umbrella.

She has a point. You can join a heretical messianic cult like Chabad and not be under the Hillel umbrella. Or you can be one of the thousands of Jews who couldn't give a darn about Hillel or Judaism, the great disaffected. Hillel never cares about engagement, does it? Doesn't fall within their mission, according to Ms. Pollack. Jews doing Jewish? Jews engaged with their tradition? At Hillel? Hah!

But Brandeis Hillel's website announces:

Hillel is the nerve center of that Jewish community, and its mission is to promote individual student growth as well as enrich the life of the campus as a whole. Hillel at Brandeis supports over 20 student clubs, performing arts groups, and special project committees each year!

So while you can be a Jewish group at Brandeis (say, Jews for Jesus, or the Zionist Freedom Alliance), you can't be within the nerve center of the Jewish community if Ms.Pollack and her ilk have their way.

I, for one, would like to know what other Jewish groups has Brandeis Hillel's executive board rejected?

Hillel Campus Relations Coordinator Erica Shaps '13 expressed a desire for co-sponsored activities between Hillel and JVP and said that the debate "presents us with the unique opportunity to show the world what discourse and dialogue on a college campus looks like and to say that it's complicated."

Please let me know, Ms. Shaps, when Hillel reaches out to JVP and offers to co-sponsor activities. I will be the first to blog about that. Because you see, that is completely against the Hillel National Guidelines, which state:

Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice,,, Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.

JVP supports a boycott of settlers' goods and the artists' refusal to appear over the Green Line. And yet Ms. Shaps, to her credit, expresses a desire to co-sponsor activities. Figure that out

Until that time, my advice to Brandeis JVP is simple: Get organized politically, and make sure that you have strong representation on the next Hillel executive board. If the board is elected – frankly, I don't know that it s – make sure to get those who voted in favor of excluding kicked off the board.

Of course, the good news is that all this publicity has provided new members and new allies for Brandeis Jewish Voice for Peace at Brandeis – and made Brandeis Hillel look like a reactionary and close-minded institution, run by AIPAC.


Unknown said...

Looks as if Hillel refuses to be associated with groups that advocate BDS toward Israel as a whole (as I read what you wrote) whereas JVP merely advocates BDS toward settlements.

Did I get that right?

Assuming I did, and laying to one side the new/proposed Israeli law that punishes BDS aimed even at settlements (on the possibly specious ground that Israeli law does not run in Brandeis U), didn't Brandeis Hillel ERR in casting JVP into the intense light of outer darkness?

Anonymous said...

yup...this post is much more important than talking about the bombing in jerusalem

other than their to note one thing that jvp does that is jewish?

you insisted that they would denounce their prior behavior, which pretty much showed that they really didnt want to be a part of the greater jewish community

they have not

instead...they got up a petition of non hillel members...which means absolutely nothing.

trust me...i can get a thousand sigs that state that you, max, and richard should no longer be allowed to call yourselves jewish...doesnt change the facts on the ground

the fact remains...jvp wants to use hillel as a cover for their nefarious activities...and hillel doesnt wish to be used in that way

Unknown said...

Fear motivates them. Fear their precious youth will turn overnight into Al Qaeda loving self-hating Jews.

Peter H said...


Actually, given that there are about 5300 total students at Brandeis, getting 1000 signatures is a pretty big deal. And how do you know these are "non-Hillel members"?; if the rules are still similar to when I was on campus, any Jew on campus can become a member of Hillel.

Avigdor said...

Chabad is a "heretical, messianic cult"? Do the misnagdim still learn Chofetz Chaim, or are his teachings now the exclusive preserve of us "heretics"?

Jerry Haber said...

Victor, please show me in Shmiras ha-Lashon where the Hofetz Hayyim, zatzal, rules that loshon ha-ra about kofrim is forbidden.

Avigdor said...

Haha! Whose ruling are you following, Jerry? I want to know the distinguished halachik authority who declared Chabad to be heretics.

It takes a very special kind of person to accuse hundreds of thousands of Torah and mitzvah-observant Jews of heresy. I'm really looking forward to this conversation.

Avigdor said...

Well, Jerry? I don't mean to put you on the spot, but I'm really anxious to know which halachik authority gave you permission to besmirch the avoda of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

And if no authority has done so, if this is just your own thing, then that may constitute slander under Jewish law. That, my friend, I'll be happy to find you in Shmiras Haloshon, whose author you clearly honor in passing.

Alternatively, you could consider the matter and remove the offending content, with no further need for discussion.

Jerry Haber said...

First of all Victor, I said nothing about Chabadniks, some of whom are my best friend. I certainly didn't want to imply that tinokos she-nishbu are heretics, rahmana le-zalan. If you are a Chabadnik, you know the Rambam's famous hilluk on the Karai'im.

As for my calling Chabad a messianic cult, I am not sure why that would bother any Chabadnik -- oh, maybe, "cult" sounds perjorative. Change it to sect, if you like.

As for its containing kefirah, I mean, are you serious? You are unaware of the accusations of gedolim that only got worse after the rebbe died?

But I want you to know that though from a Jewish standpoint I view Chabad as kefirah (see above for sources), from a liberal standpoint I a mekel. For example, I drink Chabad low alchohol wine on Pesah for the daled cosos, despite the arguments of my learned colleague, Prof David Berger, against drinking Chabad wine. So not only do I drink the wine, I do it to be yotzei a mitzvoh d'Oraisa!

If you are still offended, I will be happy to remove the words.

Avigdor said...


In your original statement, you referred to Chabad as a "heretical messianic cult". My point is that it's demonstratively not heretical, messianic (any more than the rest of normative Judaism), or a cult.

Regarding the messianism, in particular, had you said this about the meshichists, I would say, fine, that's how they define themselves. But as you know, or should know, the yechi crowd are a minority subset of Chabad, and are in the process of getting legally kicked out of 770.

We could argue all these points, and given that I'm possibly not as learned as you, I may fail to convince you otherwise. Surely you know the Talmudic dictum about starting an argument with a heretic. Certainly, you are no heretic, but the analogy holds. So, instead, let me ask you a simple question:

Through the language you chose to use, are you promoting ahavas yisroel?