Nov. 8, 2017 — After weeks of planning and negotiations, Hillel Ontario has barred Achvat Amim co-founders Daniel Roth and Karen Isaacs from speaking at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. Achvat Amim, which translates to “Solidarity of Nations,” facilitates 5-month volunteer experiences for diaspora Jews in Jerusalem. The program aims to improve the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians through grassroots community development in partnership with Israeli human rights organizations.
This summer, MASA cut support for the program, following an aggressive campaign against Achvat Amim by right-wing watchdog group Ad Kan. Daniel and Karen are currently touring the country to share their story, and were invited to speak to the Jewish community at the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.
Hillel Ontario originally barred Daniel and Karen from speaking at Waterloo on the grounds that Achvat Amim violates Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership for Israel Activities. Implemented in 2010, these Standards have barred countless speakers and organizations from the Jewish community on campus on the basis of their Israel politics. Under pressure from students to clarify how the program violated the Standards, Hillel Ontario later walked back on this claim, asserting instead that the program was barred due to Hillel Ontario’s close relationship with MASA.
“I am shocked and disappointed that Hillel is barring a Jewish, Israeli, social-justice focused organization that brings diaspora Jews to connect with Jerusalem and its inhabitants,” said Ethan Sabourin, a sophomore at the University of Waterloo and Hillel student board member. “Hillel Ontario’s decision to censor this discussion violates a core principle of Jewish tradition — a commitment to open discourse. Barring Achvat Amim deprives Jewish students at Waterloo of a rich opportunity to engage with key issues facing Israel today.”
Open Hillel calls on Hillel Ontario to reverse its decision and welcome Daniel and Karen to campus. We reiterate our call for Hillel International to end its destructive Standards of Partnership and stand up for open discourse in the Jewish community.