I’m one of the organizers of Open Hillel. “Don’t Blame Hillel” (Editor’s Column, Jan. 2) is by far the single best and thought-through article about our situation at Swarthmore and our relationship to Hillel that I have read (I’ve probably read 40-50).
While I would disagree with his conclusion that we are “over-correcting,”and with certain other arguments he made, I think that Andrew Silow-Carroll has homed in on exactly some of the issues we worry about. Hillel is a microcosm of a broader Jewish organizational world that sees us (people under 30 or so) as sculptures in need of molding, without any ability to come to valid conclusions ourselves. It is also a microcosm of a Jewish organizational world which, as the column aptly put it, has offered for years a narrow view of what is permissible conversation.
One point, though: We (Open Hillel) do not see this as a free speech issue (though perhaps some of our supporters do). We do believe that Hillel has the right to keep out speakers/organizations of a variety of kinds. We just think that, in exercising that right, they are alienating the very people who they seek to engage: Jewish students, who are increasingly either anti-Zionist or at least critical enough to be deemed treif by certain people on the right. It also creates a culture where many Jews who aren’t anti, pro, or anything else about Israel feel that Hillel is not the place for them because they don’t care enough about Israel or know enough to participate in discussions. That is probably the biggest group of any on campus, and we should worry if Hillel policies are keeping them away.
To learn more about our stance about free speech, along with many other reasons that we believe change is necessary in the Hillel system, visit openhillel.org/ten_reasons.php.