Swarthmore Hillel Gets Boost From Controversy Over Israel Critics

Openness to Debate on Jewish State Lures New Members

wikimedia commons

By Hody Nemes

Published December 23, 2013, issue of December 27, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

On a recent Friday night, members of Swarthmore College’s Hillel community gathered to celebrate Shabbat and reflect on a tumultuous week. With final exams set to begin in the morning, Hillel members in this Pennsylvania college expected a very low turnout.

But to their delight, the room in Bond Hall, which houses Swarthmore’s interfaith religious center, was packed on December 11 — with about 30 students in attendance. “That’s a lot for us, that’s huge,” said Hanna Kipnis-King, a Hillel regular. “Last week’s Shabbos was the biggest we had seen all year.”

The newcomers came out to voice support for the Hillel board, which was thrust into the national spotlight after it passed a resolution allowing anti-Zionist speakers to participate in its programming, in violation of Hillel International’s guidelines on Israel. “Hillel is attracting significant new Jewish membership as a result of this resolution,” said Kipnis-King.

The brouhaha began on December 8, when the Swarthmore Hillel board declared itself the country’s first “Open Hillel,” part of a movement to make campus Hillels more welcoming to Israel’s critics, including those who believe the state should not exist as a specifically Jewish polity and those calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Jewish state.

Swarthmore Hillel board members announced that all voices would now be accepted in their Hillel. “All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist,” they wrote.

Eric Fingerhut, president of Hillel International, fired back with a letter in which he warned the group against moving forward with the changes. “Let me be very clear — ‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances,” he wrote.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.