Beit Hillel/Hillel House: Now Go Learn

Articles relating incidents of anti-Semitism from the Ukraine to the United Kingdom; Tokyo to Toulouse; Paris to Prague have surfaced in the last month. Focusing on France, a Parisian parade last month was the mobile venue declaring that the Gallic state was no place for Jews. Thousands of participants shouted “Jews, France is not yours!” and “Jews out of France!” and numerous other chants denying the Holocaust.

Despite the French government dealing vigilantly with this display of anti-Semitism, several weeks later, anti-Semitic graffiti covered numerous buildings in Toulouse, the French city where, in March 2012, a Rabbi and three young children were killed by a terrorist.

In response to the graffiti, the city of Toulouse held an anti-racism rally in which participants in this “tolerance” march yelled epithets at the Jewish marchers demanding that “Zionists leave France.” The irony is from the theater of the absurd.

Acts of anti-Semitism are offensive, and may at times be shocking in their particular expression, but is the general manifestation of anti-Semitism (with numerous and significant exceptions, as is frequently recognized and discussed in this column) actually shocking?

What is shocking is the growing expression of “Yaakov soneh es Yaakov.”

This week, two Israeli arms dealers have been arrested on suspicion of selling military aircraft to parts to Iran. The two have both been investigated multiple times for allegedly trying to sell and ship military equipment to the Islamic Republic in violation of international sanctions. Even if no sanctions were in place, if this report is correct, what could motivate a Jew to sell military parts to a nation whose stated aim is to eradicate the Jewish people? Can the love of money be so great?

In March, Richard Falk the United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967” (this is his official title) will have concluded his six-year mandate. He is a distinguished academic and a self-described assimilationist and rejectionist Jew; nonetheless, a Jew he is. I mention Falk because with his term nearing conclusion, he has submitted his last official report which is a vicious attack on Israel exceeding his previous bilious submissions. This report accuses Israel of “inhuman acts,” “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid,” and it calls upon the United Nations to support a “legitimacy war” against Israel.

This is not what I find most disturbing. That distinction belongs to the list of candidates populated primarily by Jews of a similar stripe anxious to replace him and perpetuate his perverse perspective. Make no mistake, more than they are seeking the creation of a Palestinian state, they are determined to destroy Israel.

What stokes the passion of these self-hating Jews, and where do they come from?

While I have neither been an international arms dealer nor a Special Rapporteur for the U.N., I have been a member of the Hillel Society at Vassar College.

Vassar, located in the Hudson Valley in Poughkeepsie, is a small and exclusive liberal arts college which made news this week by becoming the second college to declare its Hillel Society “open.” This decision means that the Vassar Jewish Union (VJU) no longer agrees with Hillel International’s perception of “Israel as a core element of Jewish life and a gateway to Jewish identification for students.”

This act of “emancipation” releases the VJU from the following basic Hillel principles which “prohibit partnering with, housing, or hosting organizations, groups, or speakers who: 1) Deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; 2) Delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; 3) Support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.”

Now that the VJU is freed from the tyranny of Hillel International which “censors and delegitimizes the diverse range of personal and political opinions held by Jewish students” at Vassar, the VJU may now welcome — and remunerate — speakers and organizations which fail the above three clauses in the Hillel charter and provide them a “Jewish” platform at the college.

I do not think the students of the VJU who have decided to commit this travesty are essentially bad or committed to the destruction of Israel. I do think they are profoundly ignorant of Judaism and Israel and the mission of both in the world and through their “enlightened” ignorance became what Lenin called “useful idiots.”

I recall two examples from my time at the VJU which illustrate the state of Judaism at Vassar when I was a student. From what I have read, I believe things have only gotten worse since.

To celebrate Chanukah, the school commissioned a large chanukiyah from a well-known sculptor. The first night of Chanukah arrived, the fantastically expensive chanukiyah was unveiled and, though beautiful, I informed them it was not a kosher chanukiyah. It was a perfect example of style over substance. No one involved in the commission — neither Hillel nor the sculptor — bothered to find out the basic halachic requirements of a chanukiyah. This was the first illustration of the state of Judaism at Vassar.

The second case was the program during a large Pesach meal. It was a talk given by the non-Jewish chaplain of Yale University who spoke at length about why the concept of the Jewish people being “chosen” was in fact not only untrue, but offensive. My rebuttal to the chaplain’s apologetics was well received by many and rejected by others.

The point is that the mistake was not with what the chaplain said. The mistake was inviting this person to speak in the first place. And that is what Vassar Jewish Union is engaging in now: providing a platform to those committed to deconstructing the Jewish people rather than building Am Yisrael.

The honest dialogue that the VJU claims to be interested in is not truly “open.” It is based in ignorance, lacks integrity by marginalizing traditional views, and is meant to promote a liberal agenda antithetical to Jewish values and opposed to Israel, today the home of half of all world Jewry.

In Jewish tradition, true open discourse is not merely to be respected but to be praised when it is l’shem Shamayim. And from whom do we learn this? Beit Shammai and… Beit Hillel. “Now go learn.”


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at