For Immediate Release: Fifty-five leading professors join the Open Hillel Academic Council, call for open discourse and academic freedom in Jewish communities on campus
January 7, 2016 — Open Hillel has launched its Academic Council, an initial group of fifty-five academics across North America who will advocate for open discourse in Jewish spaces on campus. The Council includes many of the leading scholars of Israel-Palestine and the North American Jewish experience.
These academics have joined students in calling upon Hillel International to withdraw its exclusionary “Standards of Partnership for Israel Activities,” which bar individuals and groups deemed too critical of Israel and Israeli policy from working with Hillel, the umbrella group for Jewish student life.
“The Academic Council brings together a diverse group of scholars who are committed to inclusive, critical discussion of difficult topics,” said Michael Rothberg, director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies Initiative at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Professors expressed their enthusiasm for working alongside students to promote open discourse on Israel-Palestine in Jewish campus communities.
“As a scholar and teacher, I care most about fostering intellectual inquiry and critical thought. And as someone active in the Jewish community who cares deeply about Israel, I value the ability to investigate seriously the dilemmas facing Israel today,” explained Mira Sucharov, professor of political science at Carleton University. “Open Hillel promotes both these aims, enabling students not to have to abandon the values at the core of higher education as they participate in Jewish communal life.”
In joining the Council, professors warned about the consequences of Hillel’s efforts to limit discussion inside the Jewish campus community.
“Jewish life on university campuses must reflect the openness to ideas which defines the academy,” said Hasia Diner, the director of New York University’s Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History. “Jewish life will be sapped of its vitality, and its broad appeal will narrow when Jewish students are told that their Jewish spaces cannot sustain the same kind of flurry of viewpoints that prevails on the campus at large.”
In publicly declaring their support for Open Hillel, professors expressed hope that Hillel and other Jewish communal organizations will realign their policies with the principle of academic freedom and the Jewish values of inclusivity and vibrant debate.
Open Hillel is a national grassroots organization of Jewish college students and young alumni working to promote inclusion and open discourse on Israel-Palestine within campus Jewish communities. The website of the Open Hillel Academic Council, which includes a list of its members and more information about its mission, can be found here.