Open Hillel Exposes Brown Students – And Hillel – For Playing Both Sides

Late last night, a statement from Brown Students for Israel, which was quoted in my earlier piece, revealed that the Hillel staff had been lying about the event being cancelled. Early this afternoon, Open Hillel provided proof without a doubt that the event took place, including photos.

Hillel insists they knew nothing about the event, and that the staff who were “in on it” were acting against the organization’s wishes, despite the staff telling me otherwise, that Hillel wanted them to keep it under wraps due to “security concerns.”

“There is nothing we could have done to prevent the event from happening in a public space” a spokesperson for Hillel remarked.

The big display of food that was meant for the event, which resembled the type of food Hillel normally orders for its events, sat in the middle of the lobby, in plain sight.

Hillel Executive Director Marshall Einhorn was there, along with other Hillel support staff.

The organizers even openly admit that Hillel had initially willingly agreed to host the event, knowing it had violated their Standards of Partnership:

But Brown RISD Jewish students remained steadfast in their commitment to open discourse.  Disavowing Hillel International’s exclusionary Standards, on Wednesday evening, over seventy Jewish students of all backgrounds held the film screening in Hillel, the Center for Jewish Life on Campus.

It is clear that Brown/RISD Hillel is playing both sides.

To the press, Brown/RISD Hillel – after realizing they could no longer lie and say the event never happened – said they are embarrassed and horrified with this breach, and that they are taking steps to resolve it. They also claimed that they actually had closed the building early to prevent the event from taking place, but that students went behind the backs of the higher-ups.

To donors and alumni, they tell a different story. When a Providence resident and a Brown alumna, who desire to remain anonymous, called the Hillel this morning and asked if an event happened last night, they said they cannot provide this information. They also said there was no security present and it closed at 10pm, not 7pm.

There was security present, I am on record speaking to them. I also have a screenshot saying it closes at 7pm, and have that on record too. The Hillel representative told my source that they only hire security when they host events.

However, to Open Hillel, Hillel had a different message:

Ultimately, the process of planning this event forced our Hillel to recognize its own lack of openness and to begin reworking its guidelines on Israel/Palestine programming. These guidelines will not be in keeping with the guidelines published and enforced by Hillel International’s in their ‘Standards of Partnership,’ which have been used time and again to silence critical Jewish voices on Israel/Palestine. In order for Hillel to maintain its integrity as a pluralistic Jewish space, the community must embrace Jews who currently feel excluded from mainstream Jewish discourse and who seek to question dominant narratives about Israel.”

First, the statement admits that Hillel planned the event.

Second, according to this information, Brown/RISD Hillel is planning to change their own guidelines to deliberately violate the Standards of Partnership, effectively becoming an Open Hillel while still attached to Hillel International a rumored concern I had reported about in this morning’s piece. Brown/RISD Hillel claims that it was worried that without supporting or at least allowing these students and keeping their activities under wraps, they would have to sever ties with Hillel International and become an Open Hillel, which they didn’t want to do. However, I must debunk this excuse.

Hillel and Open Hillel claim that the event had a deliberate agenda, to cause and publicize the violation of Hillel’s standards in order to force it out from Hillel International’s umbrella and into Open Hillel’s umbrella. However, nowadays there is no distinction between Hillel and Open Hillel, since Hillels all over the country have been hosting anti-Israel events, especially Brown-RISD Hillel, and Hillel International is turning a blind eye.

As such, pro-Israel students feel they are between a rock and a hard place. Not expose their Hillels and donors will continue to be misled, expose their Hillels and they mistakenly believe their Hillels will be forced to become Open Hillels, spaces where they would not feel safe at all to be Zionists.

Many pro-Israel students are manipulated into allowing Hillel to host anti-Israel events under the threat of Open Hillel. However, the complicity of Brown/RISD Hillel in hosting anti-Israel events, including Breaking the Silence a few months back, shows that the Hillel is already an Open Hillel, but run by Brown/RISD (part of Hillel International) staff who are trying to subvert young pro-Israel students. Moreover, Einhorn and his crew have been hosting anti-Israel events on Brown’s campus even before Open Hillel existed, so we can’t use the threat of Open Hillel as an excuse.

Open Hillel further stated in their official statement that their goal with the event was to twist Hillel’s arm to remove the Standards of Partnership, which Brown/RISD Hillel doesn’t even abide by:

Moreover, we hope that this event will set a precedent for pluralism and open discourse in Hillel chapters across the country. We call upon Hillel International to rescind its Standards of Partnership so as to enable Jewish students on campus to engage in difficult and important conversations, rather than trying to stop them from doing so.

Now is the time for the silent majority of pro-Israel Jewish students to stand up to this tomfoolery and exploitation of Jewish student organizations that is happening on campus.

If not now, when?

When your Hillel becomes an Open Hillel, even if it is still a chapter of Hillel International, and you have nowhere to go to feel comfortable being a Zionist?

When major decisions made by campus leadership are based on on those who are vocal and provide input, in other words disproportionately left-wing students (as pro-Israel students are more likely to be apathetic).

When your apathy causes one narrative to dominate the campus discourse to the point where the decisionmakers of tomorrow will only have one side’s influence?

Until Israel’s total isolation due to changing attitudes, which has the potential to cripple its economy and perhaps cause the state to collapse?

It’s up to you to decide. I just hope you decide to stand up before it’s too late.



Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal's second-favourite export aside from poutine.

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