Hillel Defends Breaking The Silence: 'Trust Your Peers'

Hillel weakens its standards

Hillel International continues to defend the decision of St. Louis Hillel at Washington University to host the IDF-bashing group, Breaking the Silence. Reached via email, David Eden, Hillel's Chief Administrative Officer told TruthRevolt:

Hillel International has great faith in the ability of America's Jewish college students to be able to sift through a wide range of information, misinformation, and opinion about sensitive issues and come to their own wise conclusions.

We believe that by having discussions on wide-ranging and sometimes controversial issues in a safe space such as Hillel, where real dialogue can be facilitated, and fact separated from fiction, that we are providing a valuable service. Students are hearing about these issues anyway and it's better to deal with them head on in the proper educational way in a pluralistic, welcoming setting.

In today¹s world of information overload and fiery polemics flowing continually by groups with wide-ranging viewpoints and special interests, Hillel is the one  place on campus that can appropriately frame difficult discussions and provide the educational context to let students see and hear for themselves, ask probing questions, and come away better informed.

That¹s a good thing. And if Hillel and its diverse group of student leaders are building a variety of stimulating programs then I¹m not worried about anyone being misled. Shine the spotlight and get the information.  Ask questions until you get answers. Don¹t shy away from tough topics. America¹s Jewish college students have highly-turned radar for the truth based on fact. Trust your peers. We do.

Hillel International's statement calls into question president Eric Fingerhut's insistence that there is a line that cannot be crossed in Hillel buildings. In his December response to Swarthmore Hillel declaring itself an "Open Hillel," Mr. Fingerhut stated:

In summary, while welcoming debate on the many important and difficult questions that Israel faces, a debate that is vigorous in Israel as well, Hillel International does draw a line. That line is as follows: “Hillel will not partner with, house or host organizations, groups or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice: Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; Delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel; Exhibit a pattern of disruptive behavior towards campus events or guest speakers or foster an atmosphere of incivility.” 

While Mr. Fingerhut insisted that there is a line for Hillel programming ensuring events remain in line with the Hillel International mission statement, the most recent statement indicates a more relaxed interpretation of the National Hillel Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities.

It is worth noting that Russell Robinson, CEO of the Jewish National Fund, recently wrote an article titled, "Hillel is Not The Place For Anti-Israel Discussion." He stated:

I have witnessed time after time, speakers that condemn Israel do so without being properly vetted and fact-checked. Often listeners absorb every word as though it were based on facts when it is nothing more than biased opinion and misinformed rhetoric.