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(Photo/Wikimedia-Ludovic Bertron CC BY 2.0)

Bay Area rabbis sign letter blasting Hillel for banning LGBTQ group at Ohio campus

More than 100 LGBTQ rabbis, rabbinical students and cantors signed an open letter demanding that Hillel International and Ohio State University Hillel re-admit B’nai Keshet, a Jewish LGBTQ student group expelled in February from OSU Hillel because of its participation in a fundraiser co-sponsored by the OSU chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Several Bay Area clergy were among the signatories.

In February, Hillel International expelled B’nai Keshet at OSU because the group co-sponsored an LGBTQ refugee fundraiser also co-sponsored by JVP. JVP is a leftist organization that opposes Israeli occupation in Palestinian territories, supports BDS and is neutral on the question of the existence of a Jewish state. According to Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership for campus Israel activities, JVP is an unacceptable partner for affiliated Jewish organizations like B’nai Keshet, hence the ban.

Addressed to Hillel International president Eric Fingerhut, the letter from the Jewish clergy commended Hillel for past LGBTQ outreach, while criticizing B’nai Keshet’s expulsion, which, according to the letter, resulted in Hillel withdrawing “funding, staff advising, access to the Hillel building and student list-serve and subsidized kosher food.” The letter called on Hillel International to end its standards of partnership.

Among the signers were Rabbis Burt Jacobson, Dev Noily and David Cooper of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont; Rabbi Jeremy Sher of Oakland; Rabbi Judith Seid of Pleasanton; Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb of Berkeley; Rabbi Susan Averbach of San Francisco; and rabbinical student Cat Zavis of Berkeley.

Signatories support the Open Hillel movement made up of Jewish students and community members who seek more open discourse about Israel-related matters in Jewish communities on campus. Critics claim Open Hillel policies would open the door to unacceptably anti-Israel views being granted a platform in local Hillels.