Here is the opening statement made by Jewish Voice for Peace in its bid to be recognized as a Jewish group under Hillel auspices. I think it is as important document because it shows the sort of group that has no place at the Hillel communal table. Let us not forget that Hillel was never intended to be the Zionist Organization of America. It was intended to be a place for Jewish students to interact with other Jewish students in a Jewish environment. At some point, however – was it when the former head of the Israel Coalition Campus became the Executive Director? – the mission changed. Hillel was also to serve as a center for political advocacy for Israel. As support for Israel has become more and more controversial, Hillel has decided to cut its ties with Jewish organizations that are Jewishly committed but that do not toe the party line.
I ask all my readers, Jewish and non-Jewish, whether the following statement reads like an illegitimate Jewish group. Because in rejecting the Jewish Voice for Peace, Brandeis Hillel has staked out what is legitimate and illegitimate in Jewish belief. Maimonides wrote a credo with thirteen principles. Hillel replaced that with one: Support Israel.
We are Jewish Voice for Peace and we are coming to Hillel tonight to become part of Brandeis Hillel, as full and equal members of the organized Jewish community.
Motivated by our Jewish values and our belief in Ahavat Yisrael, we advocate for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We believe that both peoples have a right to safety, security, human rights and full self-determination. We fully support the right of the Jewish and Palestinian people to live in their historic homeland. We believe in the principle of non-violent peacemaking, and to that end we oppose terrorism and military force as strategies to accomplish political goals.
The mission statement of the Brandeis Hillel constitution reads: "We… affirm the necessity of a pluralistic Jewish community on campus, with partisanship to none." In line with this, Jewish Voice for Peace strives for a pluralistic, welcoming, and inclusive Jewish community. We offer Brandeis' Jewish community an outlet for political views and ideologies that fall beyond the mainstream, and we allow students to grow intellectually by having an opportunity to expand and develop their beliefs. JVP, like Hillel, pursues the Jewish values of tzedek and tikkun olam: we want to heal Israel's many wounds left by internal conflict and unnecessary violence while longing for justice and peace in the area.
There is an old joke about a man stranded on a desert island. When he is rescued years and years later, he shows his rescuers the two synagogues he constructed. "Why two?" They ask. "This is the synagogue I pray in," he says, "and this is the synagogue you wouldn't catch me dead in!" Internal divisions within the Jewish community have always existed. Jewish communal organizations should exist in order to foster healthy dialogue between these assorted political opinions. Excluding us from Hillel would serve to increase polarization, while bringing us in would allow for increased learning and co-operation among the Jewish community.
"National Hillel declares that it "is steadfastly committed to the support of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," We, too, support a democratic state in Eretz Yisrael based on Jewish values." We urge you to ask any questions so we may clear up misconceptions. Today, you as a Hillel board will make a powerful statement. You can reject Jewish Voice for Peace, and indicate to the Brandeis community that Hillel is an exclusive institution, and that only those who fall in line politically are welcome. Or you can accept us, and signal to the world that Hillel is the true umbrella organization for the whole Jewish community; a pluralistic community, with partisanship to none.