Swarthmore Seals Split From Hillel, Renames Itself Kehilah

Name change follows decision by campus Jewish organization to drop affiliation with Hillel International over restrictions on Israel issues.

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The Swarthmore College chapter voted unanimously to reject Hillel International's restriction on Israel boycott programming.
The Swarthmore College chapter voted unanimously to reject Hillel International's restriction on Israel boycott programming.Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Swarthmore College chapter of Hillel has voted to rename itself Swarthmore Kehilah.

The name change, announced on Sunday, follows the decision by the Jewish on-campus organization to drop its affiliation with Hillel International, due to the latter's restrictions on issues concerning Israel.

The name Kehilah, which means Community, was chosen through an open submission process for new names and two rounds of voting in less than a week. The initial ballots resulted in a tie between Ruach, which was the name of the campus community organization before it affiliated with Hillel, and Kehilah. A tie-breaking vote was held on Sunday.

In December 2013, the Hillel of Swarthmore College declared itself an Open Hillel, saying it would not abide by Hillel International’s rules prohibiting partnering with or hosting groups or speakers who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish or democratic state; delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; or support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

Hillel International emailed a letter to Swarthmore deans on March 16 threatening legal action if students at the college’s Hillel chapter hosted an upcoming program with speakers espousing anti-Israel or pro-BDS viewpoints. The campus group voted on the same day to disaffiliate with Hillel International and to change its name.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be writing with the new name of Swarthmore’s Jewish community – a name that together, we all chose for ourselves,” Kehilah President Sarah Revesz, a Swarthmore senior, wrote in the announcement email to Jewish students on campus.

“It’s been wonderful to see how many people have gotten involved in this process over the past week. We had a strong voter turnout and it makes me glad to see so many people taking the steps to make this community your own,” Revesz wrote.

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