Seattle Hillel: Angst in Spades

Rabbi Oren Hayon on fighting BDS “not sure it was worth the sacrifice”

Rabbi Oren Hayon on fighting BDS “not sure it was worth the sacrifice”

University of Washington Hillel director Rabbi Oren Hayon and the students of UW Hillel have garnered well deserved praise over the past two weeks after helping lead the resounding defeat of a BDS inspired divestment resolution at the University of Washington.

In the wake of the Seattle victory many in the Jewish community were stunned by comments recently made by Hayon in the local Jewish newspaper that “The risk that this [BDS divestment] bill carried — I’m not sure it was worth the sacrifice we made to fight it.”

Suggesting that the cost of challenging the anti-Semitic BDS movement takes too high a toll on student activists, Hayon went on to ask “when will the Jewish community acknowledge that there is no such thing as a sustainable ideal whose preservation requires that we sacrifice our young?”

A question for Rabbi Hayon; were these struggles worth the sacrifice?

A question for Rabbi Hayon; were these struggles worth the sacrifice?

In the same article Hayon calls for an expansion of UW Hillel’s well known” big tent” policy towards diverse viewpoints. All Jewish students no matter their views are currently welcomed at UW Hillel, although theoretically activities that promote the elimination or demonization of Judaism or the Jewish state will not be hosted. For Hayon, this is apparently not enough.

“It is clear that changes need to be made” said Hayon. “It is no longer tenable for Jewish communities or Jewish leaders to pretend that young American Jews’ relationships with Israel are unambiguous or uncomplicated. We have to convene conversations with people who make us uncomfortable, and talk about ideas that make us uneasy. I believe Hillel is uniquely positioned to lead the Jewish community forward in this difficult process, and I am hopeful that some brave conclusions will emerge from the reevaluation of Hillel International’s rules of engagement about Israel.”

Hayon  denies he is pursuing an  Open Hillel model that welcomes anti-Israel programming, but it is unclear, outside of an Open Hillel structure, what exactly Hayon is advocating, as the only programming Hillel UW currently restricts are those that demonize or delegitimize the Jewish people or the Jewish state.

Hayon, concludes his treatise pondering why some Jewish students have fled to the BDS movement.

“Do we really wish to distance ourselves from committed, learned Jews who are deeply concerned about Palestinian suffering? Shall we not protest the lie that one cannot fight for another people’s self-determination and still call oneself a Zionist? And isn’t it finally time for us to – find new ways of reaching out to those Jews who, after searching for a legitimate, nonviolent way of raising their voices in protest, have found themselves welcomed more warmly in the BDS community than in our own?”

Perhaps those students who fled into the arms of BDS were disillusioned in some part by the palpable angst and lack of certainty of the Hillel leadership in the justice of the very cause which Rabbi Hayon so successfully championed two very long weeks ago.

About Zion Mike

A semi hard working family man with wife and four kids, Zion Mike's primary goal is getting a good nap. Living in the center of demented anti-Israel wackiness known as the Pacific Northwest has compelled Michael to blog here and at The Mike Report. He is consistently surprised when people take notice.

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  • walt kovacs

    “rabbi” hayon should resign immediately

    “I am aware that there are Jewish students in our community who are looking for a legitimate, nonviolent way to express their outrage and disappointment to what they see as Israel’s failure,” he said. “I don’t know what options are open to them…. Once the battle lines were drawn it was clear Hillel wasn’t inviting dialogue with students.”

    he is another open hillel loser and has no place within the jewish community

  • Max

    The BDS crowd has successfully harnessed the resources of all kinds of far-left organizations and seemingly unrelated groups. Every time one of these BDS debate farces rolls around, I can’t help but be stunned by the number of pro-BDS speakers representing the “Union of Incarcerated Undocumented Disabled LGBT South Asian Workers” or something like that. The pro-Israel kids are not only outnumbered, but also on defense the whole time. It’s like football–the defense gets worn down at a faster rate than the offense. What this means is that the pro-Israel kids have to work harder than their counterparts to come out on top. It does take a toll, and I’m sure some Jewish students decide against going to Berkeley and places like that, since they don’t want to have to decide between defending their communities and studying for their classes.

    Thanks Mike for the great work in Seattle. I’m about to relocate there. Maybe we’ll cross paths!

    • walt kovacs

      well, when they have idiots like rabbi hayon “on their side” it only makes the fight that much harder

    • juvanya

      This is actually true. I went to Rutgers and there was actually a working group collective to help all the leftist groups cross-promote. They held meetings in the professors union office.

  • walt kovacs
  • Ryan Bellerose

    ahhh, I see, so basically we should teach young jews that its ok to stand up against things that are unacceptable but only if its easy, because you can be warmly accepted by the other side who only wants to DESTROY YOUR NATION AND KILL YOUR PEOPLE. seems legit.

    every time someone whines about how hard it is to do the right thing, the other side laughs because they think that even when they lose, they win, they just want the publicity, but the thing is, the day we stop fighting, the day we give in and throw israel under the bus so that non Israeli jews can be “comfortable” is the day we are no longer the good guys, its the day we become complicit in the destruction of something we should all hold sacred.

  • Norman_In_New_York

    Hasn’t anyone ever heard of the saying, “The best defense is a good offense?” The way to go is to take the fight to the enemy, investigate their finances, and lobby legislators and other authorities to shut down or sever sources of undue influence, and these things can be done without distracting students from their studies. This is sort of like a BDS agenda, only carried out by the good guys.

    A rabbi who is stuck on being an inert target instead of an aggressive challenger is unworthy of leadership.

  • Hard Little Machine

    As I say over and over, I don’t care that these cretins hate Israel and Jews. All I object to is allowing them to use the Hillel brand call themselves Jews.

  • A F

    The biggest problem I see here is that he is buying into what some of the BDS people say about themselves, especially the Jewish ones.

    That is the myth that they are being “critical of Israeli policies” when they truth is that they are simply “anti Israel”.

    If someone is joining forces with the BDS crowd, they are doing so because they are anti Israel. Full stop.

    Thus when he says: “Shall we not protest the lie that one cannot fight for another people’s self-determination and still call oneself a Zionist?” he should know that the issue isn’t about “another people’s self-determination”. Its about them being against Israel.

  • Dian Kjaergaard

    Posted on the newspaper site:

    Core BDS doesn’t care about the Palestinians – it cares about bashing Israel. The fellow travellers are being morally and intellectually lazy – it’s so easy to believe that if just Israel would leave the territories, everything would be ok. It’s just not that simple.

    Those who care deeply – or indeed at all – about Palestinian suffering should learn about the many, many win-win ways that exist for helping them.

    Getting involved takes hard work and persistence. One of the barriers *is*, indeed, hardened Israeli/Jewish hatred of Arabs – no willingness to recognize suffering. Another barrier is created by assymetry:

    There are lots of examples of Jews and Israelis opening their hearts to Palestinian suffering when they start getting some knowledge and contact. But in almost every such encounter I’ve seen or read about, the Palestinians fail to open their hearts to Jewish and Israeli suffering.

    There are probably lots of reasons for this, but whatever the root causes, the ideology connected with BDS makes every bit of contact illegitimate unless the prime reason for the contact is redressing injustices as seen from the Palestinian side. This poisons the relationships from the outstart.

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    “when will the Jewish community acknowledge that there is no such thing as a sustainable ideal whose preservation requires that we sacrifice our young?”
    Well then, I guess we’d better disband the IDF. And the US armed forces. And the Seattle police and fire departments.
    And I guess that Rabbi Akiva, and the rest of the 10 martyrs, just weren’t as wise as Rabbi Hayon, and neither were the chashmonaim.

  • youandme2

    Rabbi Oren Hayon, it is you who is not worth the sacrifice.

  • rulierose

    “asking uncomfortable questions” is one thing. committing ethnic suicide is another. I see no reason why an organization like J-Street, which is clearly inimical to Israel, should be allowed to be a part of the pro-Israel community.

    as far as “Palestinian suffering” goes, since it is largely self-inflicted, it’s hard to feel really sorry for them. I’m much more concerned about Jewish suffering, including that of little kids in Sderot who are afraid to go to sleep because the rocket sirens are so frequently heard there.

    “If we are not for ourselves, who will be?” is even more true these days. ironic that it was Hillel who said those famous words. but of course, America is a country where the most anti-Israel president in history was reelected with 65% of the Jewish vote, so we’re nothing if not deluded…

  • garyfouse

    Last month, Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Orange County forced Anteaters for Israel to cancel a scheduled speech by noted Muslim apostate Nonie Darwish under the threat of withdrawing funding for I-Fest, the week of pro-Israel events that followed MSU hate-Israel week.

  • juvanya

    “Do we really wish to distance ourselves from committed, learned Jews who are deeply concerned about Palestinian suffering?”

    First of all, no such thing as committed, learned Jews supporting the violent racist enemies of Israel. Religious Jews are pro-Israel. Secular JINOs are not.

    You cant be connected to Israel without being connected to Judaism.

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