Protesting speaker restrictions, Hillel student president in Allentown resigns

Caroline Dorn resigned as the Hillel student president at a college in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to protest Hillel International’s restrictions against hosting anti-Israel speakers.

Dorn said she stepped down because the Hillel at Muhlenberg College was barred from hosting four Jewish civil rights veterans currently on a speaking tour of U.S. colleges called “From Mississippi to Jerusalem: In Conversation with Jewish Civil Rights Veterans.”

Hillel International’s rules prohibit college Hillel chapters from partnering with or hosting groups or speakers who deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish or democratic state; delegitimize, demonize or apply a double standard to Israel; or support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

The Jewish civil rights activists on the tour — Dorothy Zellner, Larry Rubin, Mark Levy and Ira Grupper — are supportive of BDS tactics against Israel. Their tour is being sponsored by Open Hillel, which aims to challenge Hillel International’s rules on Israel issues.

The four were featured at a March 26 event at Muhlenberg that drew 100 students and faculty members, according to organizers. Three of the veteran activists shared their experiences fighting for civil rights in the 1960s and “their perspectives on the situation in Israel/Palestine,” organizers said.

Rabbi Melissa Simon, the professional director of Muhlenberg’s Hillel chapter, stood behind the decision not to host the civil rights speakers in the Hillel building.

“The tour’s campus campaign focuses on promoting an anti-Israel and pro-BDS agenda,” Simon wrote in an op-ed in the Muhlenberg Weekly. “Students are welcome to bring a speaker to campus and find co-sponsors — it just doesn’t have to be Hillel.” — jta