(Open) Hillel (Autonomous)


Students at Hillel should understand that they have the support of faculty in the academic Jewish Studies Program at their university or college. As for what ails Hillel, see the excellent article by John Judis in the New Republic. As a reverberating reaction to the Second Intifadah, the fear and loathing at Hillel restricting debate about Israel makes a crude kind of sense as a wrongheaded attempt to close ranks by drawing lines in the face of the movement for BDS. Undemocratic, its is the worst kind of emergency politics, in which cultural citizenship is decided upon very narrow and rigidly enforced ideological bases. In seeking to legitimate Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, this kind of ideological-cultural enforcement does far more to deligitimate Israel and Zionism than the actions they seek to counter. By censoring discussion, Hillel turns itself into a small and anxious place.  The better course of wisdom is to let reason temper rage and fear, to air opinion. This means entrusting Hillel to the best and open judgment of the students whom the organization is intended to organize. Let them decide whom to invite and whom not to invite, with whom to co-operate and with whom not. Let them figure out how to sort of the differences that best the American Jewish community in relation to its own self-constitution and in relation to Israel. As a microcosm, it’s their place, and it should be treated as such. An open place or a bunker, what’s it going to be?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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