This November, Kesher Enoshi students brought members of Students for Justice in Palestine into Hillel to vote for Kesher candidates running for the board of the Jewish Student Union, an important arm of Hillel that controls the funding of student groups. This is the means through which the Jewish community’s money is dispensed on the Berkeley campus. Through its alliance with the virulent anti-Israel group Students for Justice in Palestine, Kesher Enoshi hoped to control the financial resources of Jewish students. Fortunately, the Kesher Enoshi candidates lost, even with their attempt to use a pro-Palestinian group to influence the outcome.
Hillel fundraising letters portray the organization as a place that promotes Jewish values and stands as a shield against the growth of campus anti-Zionism, which often masquerades as anti-Semitism. At Berkeley, however, several Hillel activists have moved from the embrace of Jewish and Zionist values to become prominent in the Palestinian cause. Avital Aboody,, once head of Hillel’s Israel Action Committee, is now active in the Free Gaza Movement. And Hillel student leader Itamar Haritan is now aligned politically with the Palestinian cause on campus. Perhaps at Berkeley’s Hillel that is indeed the definition of Jewish values.
Some blame Ken Kramarz for the fiasco on Berkeley’s campus, attributing Hillel’s anti-Judaism and anti-Israel’s programs to his arrival in 2007. But such thinking is simplistic. Kramarz couldn’t do anything without major support from the organized Jewish community.
The Hillel we have, like our notorious anti-Israel film festival, is what the community wants. Caroline Glick asks: “Whither American Jewry?” In this community the answer is quite obvious: “On the campus we are standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel’s enemies while mocking our own heritage. At the film festival we are saluting Hamas-embracing Cindy Corrie, while beatifying her daughter who gave her life to make it possible for suicide bombers to kill other Rachels in Tel Aviv. This is who and where we are.
“Our Jewish Federation could not pass a resolution that would prevent a replay of this year’s anti-Israel film festival fiasco. But while we are smug about our progressive view of the world, we are incapable of defending it outside our incestuous political culture. At some level, we do comprehend how pathetic and ridiculous we look to the outside world.
“So, rest assured, our leadership and that of national Jewish organizations are gearing up to find refuge in denial, however implausible. Don’t be deceived. In this community there is an immense pride in our disdain for Israel and our mockery of Jewish values. It is, after all, what we have become. We just can’t acknowledge it in the wider court of public opinion.”