Open Hillel Plans First National Conference

Speakers Rejected by Jewish Institutions Will Speak

By Michael Kaplan

Published May 15, 2014.
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Open Hillel, which has sparked considerable controversy for refusing to abide by Hillel International’s pro-Israel guidelines, has announced today that it will be holding its first national conference this October. The event, which will be hosted at Harvard University, will feature panels and discussions related to the Israel-Palestine conflict and hot-button issues facing the American Jewish community.

“We are inviting all who are interested to attend a communal event that will deepen and broaden our knowledge of crucially important issues facing our world,” Lex Rofes, a member of Open Hillel’s steering committee said.

A statement sent out by the organization said that it hopes the event will feature controversial speakers including Judith Butler, David Harris-Gershon and Rashid Khalidi, who have been barred from speaking at Jewish institutions in recent months due to their critical stances toward Israeli policies.

Open Hillel launched in early 2013 to challenge Hillel International’s guidelines that forbid partnering with groups or inviting speakers who are excessively critical of Israel or support boycott of the state.

Since it launched last year, the group has amassed considerable media attention and claims to now have over a thousand supporters. Hillel International, which represents more than 500 campus chapters, has responded by condemning the Open Hillel movement.

Conference organizers have launched their own crowd-sourcing fundraiser to cover conference expenses.

This article was amended on May 15 to reflect the fact that none of the speakers named in the press release have yet been confirmed for the conference.


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