Open Hillel Statement on the JCRC and the Movement for Black Lives

August 5, 2016

Open Hillel is deeply disturbed by the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council’s decision to categorically reject partnerships and coalition work with organizations that endorse the Movement for Black Lives platform due to disagreements with the platform’s language on Israel-Palestine.

Open Hillel takes no position on Israel-Palestine or on the Israel-related clauses in the Movement for Black Lives platform, and we understand that language concerning Israel-Palestine in the platform is controversial. Yet we are troubled because the JCRC’s new policy prevents the Boston Jewish community from engaging with a wide range of racial justice and black-led organizations and impedes interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Moreover, at a time when Black Jews and Jews of color are leading protests and campaigns for #BlackLivesMatter, the JCRC’s refusal to work with anyone affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives ignores and erases the varied perspectives of Jews of Color and excludes Jewish racial justice activists from our communities.

The JCRC statement is just the latest instance in which a broad-based Jewish institution has enacted a blanket ban on working with anyone deemed too critical of Israel. Such bans impede racial justice work and marginalize racial justice activists and people of color.

In the spring of 2014, Open Hillel launched a nationwide civil rights tour. At campuses across the country, Jewish students -- in collaboration with black student groups and other campus racial justice organizations -- planned panel discussions with longtime Jewish civil rights activists who have organized for racial justice from the 1960s to today. These conversations addressed crucial issues of social movement organizing and interfaith solidarity in different historical moments. Yet at nearly every campus where students planned these programs, Hillel barred them, deeming the speakers too critical of Israel and in violation of Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership.

As student activists across the country continue to organize for #BlackLivesMatter, exclusionary policies on Israel-Palestine, such as those of the Boston JCRC and Hillel, will continue to harm inter-communal relations on campus and to marginalize Jewish students of color and Jewish racial justice activists of all backgrounds.  

Differences of opinion about Israel-Palestine should inspire conversation, not litmus tests. At a time when a growing number of Black Americans see parallels between their experiences and those of Palestinians, Jewish Americans (of all racial backgrounds) must be able to discuss these issues openly, regardless of deep disagreements that may exist.

We call upon the JCRC to retract their statement and instead reach out to the Movement for Black Lives, and other Black-led organizations, to discuss the platform. And we call upon all broad-based Jewish institutions to support inclusive, pluralistic Jewish communities that welcome divergent perspectives on Israel-Palestine and are genuinely engaged with crucial issues of social justice.