JUSTICE - No. 68

42 No. 68 JUSTICE discussion of these complicated and difficult issues. One of the most complicated issues Stern confronts is the Hillel organization’s “Standards of Partnership.” Central to Jewish campus life, this organization provides a comfortable place to discuss Israel, antisemitism, and other issues. Hillel advocates for a secure Jewish state, while providing cultural, spiritual, intellectual, and culinary support for Jewish students. As a private organization, Hillel has no First Amendment obligations or commitment to academic freedom. Hillel cannot, and should not, be a “Hyde Park” corner for anyone who has an opinion on Jewish issues, Zionism, or Israel. But campus Hillels also sponsor lectures, discussions, and programs that attract Jewish and non-Jewish students and faculty. Stern argues that the “Standards” suppress discussion and more importantly, are counter-productive to dialogue and toward defusing campus tensions. The “Standards” declare that “Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that as a matter of policy or practice” support BDS; are violent or disruptive; “Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders;” or “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.”4 The “Standards” are controversial. Swarthmore College’s Hillel became an independent Kehillah when Hillel International threatened “legal action” over a speaker on a panel.5 The “Standards” can lead to truly strange results. In 2014, for example, the Palestine Solidarity Committee at Harvard asked Harvard Hillel to co-sponsor and host Avraham Burg, formerly the head of the World Zionist Organization, and Speaker of the Knesset.6 Hillel declined because the “Standards” prohibit cooperation with a group that supports BDS. Harvard Hillel hosted a dinner for Burg on its own, where he denounced BDS as “a tool of violence.”7 Stern would argue that Harvard Hillel missed an opportunity to engage in a serious dialogue. Throughout this book Stern points out how both sides of “the conflict” persistently miss opportunities to talk. A full discussion of Hillel’s “Standards” is beyond this essay, but the issue goes to the heart of Stern’s argument: open discussion is in the best interest of Jewish Americans and Israel. However, under the “Standards,” many distinguished Jewish scholars are no longer invited to speak at Hillels, even if their public lectures are not about Zionism or Israel. Stern reminds us that all Jews have never agreed on Zionism, quoting Harvard’s distinguished Jewish historian, Derek Penslar: “Not a single one of the founding figures in the history of Zionism and Israel would be allowed to speak on campus today in a Hillel facility. All of them were willing to consider alternatives to pure Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, and that includes Herzl, Ben-Gurion, and Jabotinsky” (p. 146). The “Standards” also preclude talks by Satmar Hasids, followers of Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum, who believe Israel to be inherently heretical. The Lubavitcher Rebbes, Shalom Dov Schneersohn (1860-1920), and Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), made similar arguments.8 At the other end of the theological spectrum, the “Standards” would have barred Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and most other Reform leaders who opposed Zionism until the 1950s. One need not agree with these positions – I certainly don’t – to think that learning about them, and even debating them, would be valuable to Jewish students. The larger argument here is not whether Hillel can have the “Standards” – as a private organization it can – but whether the “Standards” serve Jewish students. Moving beyond Hillel, Stern’s argument is that the Jewish community does harm to itself by advocating this selfcensorship. Whether or not a full-blown discussion of this issue would be possible in a Hillel remains a question. Stern argues that more campus debate will strengthen and support Jewish students and, in the long run, bolster support for Israel. Zionist students must learn to defend their views in neutral, or even hostile, settings. Vigorous debate and study within a Hillel – which is really the only campus venue for such internal discussions – will strengthen these students. Indeed, as lawyers, jurists, and legal scholars, we know that listening “to opposing counsel” can help you strengthen your own position. Stern calls for discourse, free speech, tolerance of 4. “Hillel Israel Guidelines,” HILLEL (2021), available at https://www.hillel.org/jewish/hillel-israel/hillel-israelguidelines 5. https://harvardpolitics.com/balancing-game/ 6. Burg is controversial and has become more so since this event in 2014. See Benjamin Balint, “A Critique of Avraham Burg,” MY JEWISH LEARNING, available at https://www. myjewishlearning.com/article/a-critique-of-avraham-burg/ 7. Shira Hoffer, “Balancing Game: Hillel’s Standards of Partnership & BDS,” HARVARD POLITICS, Sept. 27, 2021, available at https://harvardpolitics.com/balancing-game/ 8. Shaul Madi, “The Satmar Are Anti-Zionist, Should We Care?” THE TABLET, May 21, 2020, available at https:// www.tabletmag.com/sections/belief/articles/satmaranti-zionist

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