Hillel does not represent all Jewish students, Open Hillel informs federal court in Amicus Brief

July 30, 2018

Open Hillel filed an amicus brief in Mandel v. California State University to inform the court that, unfortunately, Hillel does not represent all Jewish students [1]. Rather, since enacting its Standards of Partnership for Israel Activities in 2010 [2], Hillel International and its local affiliates have consistently excluded Jewish students on the basis of their political views [3].

Mandel v. California State University was filed by the Lawfare Project, an organization that uses lawsuits as a tactic to shut down speech that calls attention to Israel’s actions [4] or protests Israel’s policies [5]. The Lawfare Project relies on the claim that Hillel represents “all Jews on campus...regardless of political ideology” [6] to argue that San Francisco State University necessarily discriminated against Jewish students by failing to ensure that Hillel was included in a campus Know Your Rights Fair.

As an organization dedicated to promoting pluralism and inclusion in the Jewish community, Open Hillel is uniquely positioned to address the specific issue of whether Hillel truly represents all Jewish students. Right now, it does not.

Open Hillel objects to Hillel’s claims to represent all Jewish students while simultaneously excluding many students from the Jewish community on campus [7] and lobbying for political causes that students oppose [8]. As long as Hillel’s claims remain unchallenged, Hillel will continue to misrepresent and marginalize Jewish students nationwide.

  1. Brief of Amicus Curiae Open Hillel in Mandel v. California State University
  2. Hillel International Guidelines for Campus Israel Activities: Standards of Partnership
  3. See, e.g.: Batya Ungar-Sargon, “How the Israel Lobby Captured Hillel,” November 23, 2015.  
  4. For instance, in 2017, the Lawfare Project argued before the French Supreme Court that labeling goods produced in Israel’s West Bank settlements constituted illegal discrimination. See: Lawfare Project initiates legal action in France to challenge regulation on labeling of Israeli products.
  5. For instance, in 2014, the Lawfare Project supported a complaint claiming that the American Studies Association should lose its tax-exempt status because its members had endorsed a BDS resolution. See: Lawfare Project cited in complaint challenging ASA’s tax-exempt status. The Lawfare Project also sued the National Lawyers’ Guild, a progressive bar association, over its position on Israel. See: Lawfare project press release on National Lawyers Guild.
  6. Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint, Mandel v. California State University, p. 6
  7. For instance, Hillel expelled B’nai Keshet, the LGBTQ Jewish student group at Ohio State University, for co-sponsoring a fundraiser for local refugees with Jewish Voice for Peace-OSU. See: Elaine Cleary, Haaretz: “Expelled from Hillel, LGBTQ Jews are Out of the Closet and Into the Cold,” March 23, 2017.
  8. For instance, Hillel endorsed President Trump’s nominee, Kenneth Marcus, to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights even as Jewish students opposed Marcus because of his disappointing record on issues such sexual assault, racial justice, and free speech.