JVP Rabbis Call Out: “Open Hillel!”

I’ve just returned from an inspiring sojourn at the Jewish Voice for Peace National Members’ Meeting in Berkeley, CA (you can read more about the event here.) While I was there, I took the opportunity to film a few of my colleagues on the JVP Rabbinical Council voicing their support for the Open Hillel campaign (a recent and very important student-run initiative about which I blogged not too long ago.)

Here ’em testify!  From top to bottom, Rabbis Brian Walt, Lynn Gottlieb, David Mivasair, Margaret Holub, David Bauer and Alissa Wise:

17 thoughts on “JVP Rabbis Call Out: “Open Hillel!”

  1. Neal Chambers

    I just got your book today and started reading it. I am so excited that I almost have written you a book of comments and stories in my head. I would like to write a short autobiography so that you will understand how much your work and the work of others like you affects me. You’ll be getting comments from me as I go. Neal

  2. i_like_ike52

    Each one of these statements is a misleading bland appeal to “freedom of speech” which, of course, no one is going to object to. For the sake of honesty, they should have stated that they are advocating BDS which means boycotting and punishing Israel and certain groups of Jews there (e.g. those who live in the settlements) whom they don’t like. This is totally unrelated to the discussion of “peace with the Palestinians” which one of the speakers mentioned. Encouraging boycotts of some or all Israelis or international condemnation of Israel is a declaration of war inside the American Jewish community against groups of Jews or Israelis or Israel as a whole within the and Hillel is right to exclude that from discussions within their organization, just as would be inviting Jews for Jesus to come and preach there. Hillel has NO OBLIGATION to unrestricted “freedom of speech” just as these rabbis congregations would not allow just anything to be said which the congregation considers to be inappropriate for the sake of “freedom of speech”.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      Ike: your comparison of BDS – a call from Palestinian civil society to support nonviolent resistance of a brutal occupation – to “a declaration of war” is simply misguided – jaw-dropping, actually. It is particularly disingenuous when you consider the massive, crushing military regime that currently imprisons Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. This is not about “punishing” people we “don’t like.” It is about very real oppression – and seeking to build popular support to leverage pressure to end it.

      While there are certainly those who oppose BDS on tactical grounds, there is no valid reason to keep this debate from merely taking place in our community. Jewish religious culture has always valued open discussion and debate, even about (particularly about) difficult or painful subjects. The only real exception, as I believe most would agree, would be promoting hate speech or proselytizing. (In this regard, your comparison of BDS to “Jews for Jesus” is just silly misdirection.)

  3. MFC

    In the very same post from last month that Rabbi Rosen mentions, he linked to an article from Washington Jewish Week because of a brief passage criticizing Jewish Voice for Peace. He said you should read that article. Yes, do. Here’s the link again:

    Now come back to this post, watch the videos, and tell me if you’re as confused as I am. Who are these people who are against a conversation among Jews about affirming human rights? Who is opposed to talking about learning to coexist with Palestinians, to use Lynn Gottlieb’s phrase in her video? Who is blocking these conversations on college campuses?

    Just as Washington Jewish Week demonstrated an incredibly extensive (and almost completely respectful) dialogue on U.S. college campuses among young Jews, Rabbi Rosen and his JVP colleagues are completely free to join, assist and facilitate dialogue on these issues they say they care about. But no – instead they are demanding admission for a movement that denies basic legimacy via the mechanism of economic boycott. It’s in service of the tendency in our culture to skirt debate with an opposite point of view in favor of moral demonization.

    My suggestion would be to cut the nonsense about being muzzled and perhaps learn a lesson from the very college students you claim to want to be helping in terms of the respectful dialogue they actually want to have.

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      JVP is not “free to join, assist and facilitate dialogue on these issues” as long as Hillel has a policy that disallows conversation about BDS – an important movement that is attracting increasing number of young Jews. Your characterization of it as “a movement that denies basic legitimacy” betrays your own prejudice on this issue. There is nothing about BDS that denies Israel’s legitimacy. What is illegitimate is Israel’s crushing Occupation – and this is precisely what BDS seeks to address. What is legitimate is the promotion of open discourse on all issues that affect our community.

      1. MFC

        In the time that you spent cloistered with in Berkeley in internal organizational meetings, you as a rabbi could have wrangled three or four invitations to speak at Chicago area colleges. My rabbi speaks at colleges all the time on conflict resolution and interfaith matters, and he certainly is no hawk on issues of war and peace, reconciliation and human rights for anyone and everyone.

        You of course misread or mischaracterized my comments as saying that JVP as a group is welcome at Hillel, which it is not. You might as well claim that you are welcome to speak at the Italian-American student organization to argue the evils of the 19th century risorgimento.

        You can keeping pushing back at analogies all you want, but each represents an aspect of recognizing what is obvious – that JVP and its allied groups among the anti-Zionist crowd heavily represented on campus are framing Israel as a human rights singularity. Strategies of economic strangulation are in fact considered an attack on legitimacy and can even be a casus belli under international law. The fair discussion you claim you want to have is there for the taking – on college campuses most of all – if you will but have it.

      2. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

        Your nasty comment about our cloistering at Berkeley notwithstanding, my colleagues and I in fact spend a great deal of time speaking at college campuses on this issue. In fact there was a large number or college age students at our conference and we were asked by Open Hillel (a student-run organization) to speak in support of their initiative. Most of us have dialogued quite closely and often with Jewish and non-Jewish students on this issue in a variety of venues. It is a pity that an issue of such grave importance to rising numbers of young Jews is not welcome at Hillel, which is ostensibly the Jewish address for Jewish life on campus.

        I find your comments about BDS as “economic strangulation” and a “casus bellie under international law” to be misguided and incorrect. The goal of BDS is not economic strangulation but the end of an oppressive, illegal military occupation. No one has any illusion that BDS will bring Israel to its knees financially. Rather, this is a time-honored tactic of nonviolent resistance to leverage popular support to end an injustice.

        I do believe that this discussion is “there for the taking.” In fact, you and I are having it right now. Would that Jewish students could have it at Hillel as well.

  4. Roz

    Rabbi Rosen, are you denying that the BDS movement IS about eliminating the 2 state solution, and substituting it with a so-called secular Palestine, which would allegedly allow the 6+million Jews in Israel/the territories to live in peace, as equals? Except that nobody from JVP can explain, truthfully and logically, how that is humanly possible, given the exceptionally cruel anti-semitic culture fomented not just in Gaza, but also in the West Bank, sanctioned by official PA media. When kids in UNRWA run schools in Gaza openly say it’s their imperative to kill Jews, who have defied Allah, and suicide bombers are revered as glorified shahids in Ramallah, how do you, an intelligent, thinking person, supposedly as concerned about the welfare of Jews throughout the world, explain that this one state would evaporate all this hatred and instead foster mutual respect and cooperation? Are you fooling yourself?

    1. Neal C. Chambers

      While I am willing to accept the two state solution, I had always hoped for a one state solution with Jews and Palestinians living in peace together. I think you make too much of the bravado that is merely a vent to release the emotional anguish many must feel. As we know, children tend to express such bravado much more intensely. How they live their lives as adults however depends on their place in society. Working side by side, corroborating with Jewish people, I am certain all the negativity would be replaced by self esteem and camaraderie. Give peace a chance!

      1. i_like_ike52

        First show me how Lebanese, Syrians, Algerians, Iraqis and Pakistanis (almost all of whom are Muslims who have been butchering each other in fratricidal slaugther) and then you can show me how Jews and Arabs, who have been in constant conflict for the last 100 years in Eretz Israel can live together in a “singe state in Palestine”. What kind of a world do you think we live in?

  5. ravavram

    These people are ultimately Judenrat. They collude and conspire with Amalek. Their policies strengthen the anti-semites and endanger the Jewish people. I and my family have been harassed walking home from shul by people spouting the rhetoric of BDS and similar filth. They aid and abet those who seek to hurt and eventually kill the Jews. The next time my four year speaks out in fear about why people hate jews, it is Brat Rosen’s picture I will show him.

    1. Neal C. Chambers

      Their policies do not strengthen the anti-Semites, the policy of the nation of Israel and the government that oppresses people because of their faith is what hurts Israel. Who really killed Yitzhak Rabin? When you answer that question, you will know who is working day and night, colluding to strengthen the anti-Semites and endanger the Jewish People.

  6. Ron Edwards

    Wow Rabbi Brant, you really hit a nerve with this one. Possibly the hasbara vs. BDS has found its center of balance, with a nice list of talking points and rapidly-fired if spurious claims – but the bots weren’t prepared for any light shown on Hillel International’s activities. So here we’re seeing the reactive version, full of hysteria and random accusations. The more attention to this issue, the better

    1. MFC

      That’s exactly backwards. As already noted, there’s nothing in any of the videos about BDS. Taken at face value, there’s nothing that these six rabbis actually say that I have a problem with, and they would have no problem gaining an audience for these discussions they say they want – especially on college campuses! If there are talking points here, it’s on the part of Jewish Voice for Peace, which seems to be using generic points about open debate and dissension to engineer a muzzling claim and try to make the singular pursuit of BDS against Israel seem like persecuted cause. And thanks for the cheap comments about the sincerity and thoughtfulness of the views expressed. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m just an interested world citizen and Jewish American who’s deeply concerned with the debate.

  7. MFC

    I’ll try not to use the word “just” anymore. Good God.

    Meanwhile, Ron, feel free to make substantial arguments in this thread. Your first two posts don’t contain any.

    1. Ron Edwards

      I rely on Rabbi Brant as moderator to decide what is substantive.

      “Just” is a powerful word, full of ways to distort the meaning of a sentence. In your post, it’s a shield: “You can’t rebut me, because I have no special intent or identity that can be challenged,” even as you name two, count them, two distinct identities which are supposed to privilege your viewpoint on these matters.

      I stress the passive-aggressive content because the “just” is pretending to be a diminutive, making yourself seem harmless even as you position yourself to advantage. I am not making this up out of nowhere, but from examining your earlier posts, which are blatantly provocative, certainly not “just” (meaning “only”) those of a genuinely engaged person.

      Since you seem to want to engage:

      1. My post does not concern BDS. I mention it as the topic for which hasbara artists are currently well-prepared, with their talking points of delegitimizing and singling out and whatnot, in order to contrast it with the current topic.

      2. The topic of this thread, of the speakers, and of my post concerns the behavior of HIllel International on U.S. campuses, which is quite terrible in terms of intimidating Jewish students and sabotaging student activities which are not on-message (theirs).

      3. I am noting how poorly the automatic-responders are stating their (or any) case in objection to #2 above, compared with the current slickness of their blanket responses to BDS discussions. Yours, for example, resort to classic projections of intent, a comparatively crude tactic.

      Your initial reply to me serves as a fine example of the very point I was making. The post is obsessed with BDS as if I were claiming the speakers were discussing it, a claim you sought to refute. Clearly you failed to understand my post (the full #1-3 sequence) even minimally. This suggests to me that you didn’t read anything but “BDS” in the first sentence and perhaps the general gist that I was “on the other side” from you, and so hammered the keys to produce a spray of flak.

      I love substantive discussions. Now you try. Hint: my #2 above should elicit the response, “Link, please,” or “What do you know about it.”


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