Vassar Jewish Union Declares Itself an 'Open Hillel’

The union repudiates Hillel guidelines that 'delegitimatize' groups critical of Israel.

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Vassar College’s Jewish Union declared itself an “Open Hillel,” in an announcement made Tuesday on its website. The Vassar Jewish Union, a Hillel-affiliated student group, stands out against the international Hillel guidelines rejecting partnerships with groups deemed hostile toward Israel.

It is the second campus Hillel organization to designate itself an Open Hillel. Swarthmore College Hillel voted to reject the Hillel guidelines for campus Israel activities in December.

The guidelines forbid individual Hillel chapters from hosting groups or speakers that among other things deny Israel’s right to exist or support boycott or divestment from the Jewish state.

“We believe that this policy censors and delegitimizes the diverse range of personal and political opinions held by Jewish students,” the Vassar Jewish Union said in its statement. ”We believe that fostering a pluralistic community and supporting all Jewish life on campus cannot be achieved with Hillel International’s Israel Guidelines in place,” the statement also said.

The college is located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. According to the Hillel College guide, about 500 of the college’s 2,400 undergraduates are Jewish.

“As an Open Hillel, the Vassar Jewish Union will not endorse any particular political view. The Vassar Jewish Union will not exclude organizations, groups, speakers, individuals, or events on the basis of political opinion. Rather, we seek to represent the diverse views held by our members and to provide a space for meaningful and respectful debate and discussion. This position is in accordance with our desire to enrich our political, spiritual, and cultural lives at Vassar through free and open discourse,” the statement concluded.

Following the Swarthmore announcement, Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut responded with a letter declaring the position unacceptable.

“I hope you will inform your colleagues on the Student Board of Swarthmore Hillel that Hillel International expects all campus organizations that use the Hillel name to adhere to these guidelines,” Fingerhut wrote. “No organization that uses the Hillel name may choose to do otherwise.”

He was set to meet with the Swarthmore Hillel leadership early this year.

An announcement on the Vassar Jewish Union website announcing that it is an Open Hillel.Credit: Screenshot