Jewish Civil Rights Veterans Barred from Muhlenberg Hillel
Students told that speakers violate “Standards of Partnership” for opinions on Israel
March 26th, 2015. Four white Jewish veterans of the Civil Rights Movement spoke at Miller Forum in Moyer Hall at Muhlenberg college last Thursday evening, with over 100 students and faculty members in attendance.
The event took place as part of a national tour to promote open discourse on Israel-Palestine in campus Jewish communities. Under Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership, these four Jewish leaders are not allowed to speak within Hillel because of their opinions about Israel.
Three of the veteran activists — Dorothy Zellner, Ira Grupper, Larry Rubin — served as Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organizers in the 1960s. They shared their experiences fighting for civil rights in the 1960s and their perspectives on the situation in Israel/Palestine.
Last month, Zellner spoke as part of this tour at Harvard Hillel. However, despite their heroic work fighting for civil rights in America, the four Jewish speakers were not allowed to speak in Muhlenberg Hillel. The Hillel stated that the speakers violated Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership, and therefore our local Hillel could not endorse them. In protest, the student president of Muhlenberg Hillel, Caroline Dorn, resigned her position.
Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership bar the Jewish speakers because they have participated in non-violent activism in protest of Israel’s policies.
“The vets opened the floor to questions, and we had a great group conversation,” said Caroline Dorn, class of 2015 “It’s too bad the event could not be hosted within Hillel, as the center for Jewish life on campus, and where these conversations should be happening.”
“As a self-identified Jewish social justice activist and Muhlenberg student, the event was incredibly powerful,” said Kyra Smith, Class of 2015. “My Jewish identity and my social justice activist identity have felt disparate for a long time. It was absolutely inspirational to see four different models for how to integrate those two identities in productive and appropriate ways.”
From Mississippi to Jerusalem: In Conversation with Jewish Civil Rights Veterans is a national tour taking place from February 25-April 19, 2015, organized by Open Hillel. During this time, the Freedom Summer Vets will visit over a dozen schools across New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Midwest, and the South. Speaker biographies and more information about the tour are available on Open Hillel’s website.
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.