Over 100 Rabbis Call On Hillel International To Reinstate Booted LGBTQ Group

To: Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International

Dear Mr. Fingerhut,

We write to you as LGBTQ rabbis, rabbinical students and allies from a range of Jewish denominations living across the United States. We are teachers, scholars, activists, and leaders of communities and congregations; we have dedicated our professional lives to serving the Jewish community. We are proud that in the past several decades, LGBTQ Jews have made immense strides in the struggle for full equality and inclusion both within the Jewish community and within American society as a whole.

However, too many young LGBTQ Jews continue to face stigma and exclusion as a result of their sexuality or gender identity. These young people look to us as mentors as they navigate how they want to live as LGBTQ Jewish adults. We seek to support and guide them; and we very much want to be able to reassure them that the wider Jewish community will welcome them unconditionally and with open arms.

For many young LGBTQ Jews, college is a pivotal time for personal development, learning, and growth. During this time, many LGBTQ young people come out to their friends and families; begin seeking, joining, and building LGBTQ communities; and begin to figure out how they will live their lives as Jewish adults. Hillel serves as the center for Jewish life at 550 campuses; and Hillel’s policies and practices have a significant impact on the Jewish identities of hundreds of thousands of students. Therefore, we were glad to see that Hillel International published a LGBTQ Resource Guide in 2007 and expanded its partnership with Keshet in 2014. We hoped that these and other steps indicated Hillel’s commitment to fully supporting LGBTQ Jewish students.

However, we were deeply disturbed to hear that under pressure from Hillel International, Ohio State Hillel expelled B’nai Keshet, the LGBTQ Jewish student group at OSU, for participating in a fundraiser for LGBTQ refugees. In expelling B’nai Keshet, Hillel withdrew funding, staff advising, access to the Hillel-building and student list-serve, and subsidized kosher food from the group. Hillel’s decision has served to isolate LGBTQ Jewish students from the broader Jewish community and to deprive them of equal access to OSU Hillel’s resources. It also signals to LGBTQ Jewish college students around the world that Hillel International views them as disposable, rather than as an integral part of the Jewish campus community.

We therefore call on OSU Hillel and Hillel International to re-admit B’nai Keshet without preconditions.

Unfortunately, Hillel’s decision to expel B’nai Keshet reflects broader trends within the organization. Last summer, Hillel entered into a $22 million partnership with Mosaic United, a program led by Israeli Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett. Mosaic aims to promote the “Jewish foundations of the family unit.” Time and again, Bennett has made it clear that his vision of the Jewish family excludes LGBTQ people. This past March, as OSU Hillel expelled LGBTQ students from the campus Jewish community, it also accepted a $73,000 grant from Mosaic United. Despite best intentions, Hillel cannot fully support LGBTQ Jewish students while taking tens of millions of dollars from a program that aims to promote an exclusionary, homophobic vision of Jewish identity.

We therefore call on Hillel International to end its partnership with Mosaic United.

Hillel justified its decision to expel B’nai Keshet by citing its “Standards of Partnership” for campus Israel Activities, which bar speakers and groups deemed too critical of Israel. These events demonstrate that the Standards prevent Jewish student groups from engaging in important social justice work, including work to support the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people.

We therefore call on Hillel International to drop its exclusionary “Standards of Partnership” for Campus Israel Activities.

By re-admitting B’nai Keshet, ending its partnership with Mosaic United, and ending the Standards of Partnership for Israel Activities, Hillel International can become a truly inclusive and welcoming community for LGBTQ Jewish students. We call on Hillel to implement these changes as soon as possible so as to fulfill its mission of “enriching the lives of Jewish students so they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.”

Signed (identifying under the LGBTQ umbrella),

Rabbi Leora Abelson,Boston, MA
Rabbinical Student Caryn Aviv, ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Denver, CO
Rabbi Binyamin Biber, Humanist Chaplaincy at American University, Washington, DC
Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton, Or Haneshamah, Ottawa, ON
Rabbi Sarah Bracha Gershuny, Boulder, CO
Rabbi Deborah J. Brin, Albuquerque, NM
Rabbi Shahar Colt, Watertown, MA
Rabbi Meryl Crean, Glenside, PA
Rabbi Malka Drucker, Temple Har Shalom, Idyllwild, CA
Rabbi Jeffrey L. Falick, The Birmingham Temple,Royal Oak, MI
Rabbi Michael E. Feinberg, New York, NY
Rabbi Fern Feldman, Seattle, WA
Rabbi Zachary Fredman, The New Shul, New York, NY
Rabbi Ariel J. Friedlander, Appleton, WI
Rabbinical student Miriam Geronimus, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbinical Student Joshua Gischner, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion-New York, NY
Rabbinic Pastor Kathy A. Gohr
Rabbi Elizabeth Goldstein, Vienna, VA
Rabbinical Student Mónica Gomery, Hebrew College, Boston, MA
Rabbi Laurie Green, Washington DC
Rabbinical Student Miriam Grossman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Tikkun Olam Chavurah, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Burt Jacobson, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont, CA
Rabbi Marisa Elana James, New York, NY
Rabbinical Student Ariana Katz, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, New York, NY
Rabbi Debra Kolodny, Portland’s UnShul, Portland, OR
Rabbi Alan LaPayover, Philadelphia
Rabbinical Student Sandra Lawson, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari, Kol Tzedek Synagogue, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Sarra Lev, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Lives, Brooklyn, NY
Rabbinical Student Bryan Mann at Hebrew College, Jamaica Plain, MA
Rabbi Robin Nafshi, Temple Beth Jacob, Concord, NH
Rabbi Ariel Naveh, Wantagh, NY
Rabbi Dev Noily, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Oakland, CA
Rabbi Robin Podolsky, Los Angeles, CA
Rabbinical Student Mackenzie Reynolds,Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Brooklyn, NY
Rabbinical Student Jessica Rosenberg, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, Association of Rabbis and Cantors, Concord, MA
Rabbinical Student Sara Sandmel, Hebrew College, Boston, MA
Rabbi Drorah Setel, Temple Emanu-El, Rochester, NY
Rabbi Jeremy D. Sher, MDiv, This is Judaism, Inc, Oakland, CA
Rabbi Becky Silverstein, Los Angeles, CA
Rabbinical Student Jay Stanton, Tzedek Chicago, Chicago IL
Rabbi Frank A. Tamburello, Westchester Community for Humanist Judaism, White Plains, NY
Rabbinical Student Emet Tauber, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, Madison, WI

In support:

Rabbi Alana Alpert, Congregation T’chiya, Detroit, MI
Rabbi Susan Averbach, Society for Humanistic Judaism, San Francisco, CA
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett, Beit Am Jewish Community, Corvallis, OR
Rabbi David Basior, Kadima Reconstructionist Community, Seattle, WA
Rabbi Jordana Battis, Temple Beth Shalom, Needham, MA
Rabbinical Student Adam Bellows, Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, OH
Cantor Annice Benamy, Teaneck, NJ
Rabbi Joseph Berman, Silver Spring, MD **
**Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Spiritual Director, Renewal, Philadelphia, PA

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Temple Beth El, Madison, WI
Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven, MA
Rabbi Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, Wheaton College, Norton, MA
Rabbi Adam Chalom, Dean, International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, Lincolnshire, IL
Rabbi Geoffrey Claussen, Greensboro, NC
Rabbi Hillel Cohn, Rabbi Emeritus Congregation Emanu El, Redlands, CA
Rabbi David J. Cooper, Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont, CA
Rabbi Michael Davis, Congregation Makom Shalom, Chicago, IL
Rabbi Laurence Edwards, Congregation Or Chadash, Chicago, IL
Rabbi Bruce Elder, Congregation Hakafa, Glencoe, IL
Rabbi Barat Ellman, Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, New York, NY
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer, Claremont, CA
Rabbi Brian Field, Denver, CO
Rabbi John Friedman, Rabbi Emeritus Judea Reform Congregation, Durham, NC
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman, Temple Sinai of Brookline, Boston, MA
Rabbinical Student Natan Fuchs, Society for Humanistic Judaism, Birmingham Temple, Lathrup Village, MI
Rabbi Shai Gluskin, Philadelphia, PA
Maggid Andrew Gold, Las Vegas, NM
Rabbinical Student David N. Goodman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Elkins Park, PA
Rabbi Maralee Gordon, Woodstock, IL
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Shomeret Shalom Global Congregation, Berkeley, CA
Cantorial Student Sarah Grabiner, New York, NY
Rabbi David Greenstein, Montclair, NJ
Rabbi Edward J. Klein, New York, NY
Rabbi Jodi Kornfeld, Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community, Deerfield, IL
Rabbi Nancy Kreimer, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor in Chief, Tikkun Magazine, Berkeley, CA
Rabbi Sue E. Levy, Houston, TX
Rabbi Shaul Magid, Fire Island Synagogue , Bloomington, IN
Rabbi Nina H. Mandel, Sunbury, PA
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker, Brooklyn NY
Rabbi David Mivasair, State College, PA
Hazzan Student Baruch Morris, ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Portland, OR
Rabbi Nahariyah J. Mosenkis, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbinical Student Salem Pearce, Hebrew College Rabbinical School, Jamaica Plain, MA
Rabbinical Student Mary Raskin, Portland, OR
Rabbi Moti Rieber, Kansas Interfaith Action, Overland Park, KS
Rabbinical Student Lex Rofes, ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Providence, RI
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Tzedek Chicago, Evanston, IL
Rabbinical Student Sarah Rosenbaum, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles, CA
Rabbinical Student Charna Rosenholtz, ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Boulder, CO
Rabbi Gila Ruskin, CCAR, Havre de Grace, MD
Rabbi Judith Seid, Pleasanton, CA
Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Chevy Chase, MD
Rabbi Isaac Serotta, Lakeside Congregation, Highland Park, IL
Rabbinical Student Jessica K. Shimberg, ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Columbus, OH
Rabbi Suzanne Singer, URJ Temple Beth El, Riverside, CA
Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, New York, NY
Rabbi Marc Soloway, Congregation Bonai Shalom, Boulder, CO
Rabbi Kaya Stern-Kaufman, Leominster, MA
Rabbi Susan Stone, Director of Spiritual Care, Hilcrest Hospital, Cleveland Clinic
Rabbi Alana Suskin, Bethesda, MD
Rabbi Brian Walt, West Tisbury, MA
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, RRA, Philadelphia, PA
Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, Brooklyn NY
Rabbi Ora Weiss, Amor, Newton, MA
Rabbi Joseph Wolf, Rabbi Emeritus Havurah Shalom, Portland OR
Cantor Gregory Yaroslow, San Bernardino, CA
Rabbinical Student May Aihua Ye, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rabbinical Student Jonathan Zasloff, UCLA
Rabbinical Student Cat Zavis, ALEPH: The Alliance for Jewish Renewal, Berkeley, CA

If you are a rabbi or rabbinical student and would like to sign onto this letter, please email Open Hillel.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

Over 100 Rabbis Call On Hillel International To Reinstate Booted LGBTQ Group

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Over 100 Rabbis Call On Hillel International To Reinstate Booted LGBTQ Group

Thank you!

This article has been sent!