UCLA Hillel celebrates Israel Independence Day on campus.
Yoaz Hendel’s article in Yediot Achronot and Ynet raises baseless accusations about Hillel’s support for Israel. The correct and truthful story of Hillel’s work on campus is one of unparalleled success in the face of tremendous challenges. Berkeley Hillel deserves particular credit for bringing together students with diverse viewpoints into an active, pro-Israel community that defeated an anti-Israel resolution in 2010 and sponsored numerous pro-Israel events on campus.
Other journalists who have explored this subject in depth have offered a more balanced -- and positive -- assessment of Hillel’s work at Berkeley and on other campuses.
Hillel is the backbone of the pro-Israel community on campus in North America. With more than 500 groups worldwide, tens of thousands of Taglit-Birthright Israel and Masa Israel Journey alumni, and thousands of trained pro-Israel activists, Hillel is making the case for Israel on campuses around the globe. Hillel works with partners such as AIPAC, MASA, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Stand with Us, the David Project, the Israel on Campus Coalition and many other groups. Our 50 Jewish Agency for Israel Fellows serve as important ambassadors to the campus community. Hillel provides opportunities for students of all backgrounds – left, right and center, those who are ardent Israel activists and those who are uninvolved – to explore and build an enduring relationship with Israel. Through thousands of Israel activities on campuses each year, Hillel helps students to articulate why Israel plays an important role in their personal Jewish identities and how Israel continues to influence Jewish conversations, global Jewish peoplehood, and the world.
Hillel has created guidelines that inform our campus partnerships and that explicitly preclude working with groups that support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel; groups that deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders; or that delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel. We have taken the lead in opposing all anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts on college campuses. We have been so successful that no such resolutions have been implemented on our campuses.
At the international level, Hillel’s Center for Israel Engagement builds Israel Centers of Excellence to proactively lead an educational Israel agenda for diverse college students; has created a certificate program for Hillel professionals to develop a cadre of influential, pro-active and knowledgeable staff; will increase student travel to Israel through programs such as Taglit-Birthright Israel, Alternative Break Israel trips, study abroad and more; and has centralized the role of Taglit-Birthright Israel in local Hillels’ efforts to help students advance on their Jewish journeys.
Berkeley Hillel is a good example of a Hillel group that provides a wide range of opportunities for Jewish students to create and strengthen a relationship with Israel. Its four Israel groups offer students different ways to engage with Israel. Its Jewish Agency for Israel Fellow, Gila Hashkes, was recognized by the Jewish Agency with the “Shelichah of the Year” award. In addition, the campus has an MZ-Grinspoon Israel intern, a Birthright/Immersive Experience intern, and a MASA intern. These students and professionals work with Hillel professionals to provide a full range of opportunities to engage with Israel on campus and through travel to Israel through Taglit-Birthright Israel. The fact that no anti-Israel resolution was proposed in the student government this year is just one indication of the effectiveness of Berkeley Hillel’s work. Any accurate story about Berkeley Hillel should include the full extent of its activities and achievements. (See a complete list of Berkeley spring 2011 achievements here.)
Hillel is proud of our record of Israel engagement, education and advocacy. Our students are taking the lead for Israel on campus today, and will be the pro-Israel leaders of tomorrow.