Hillel International: End Your Partnership with Mosaic United and Affirm Your Commitment to Pluralism

Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation of Jewish Campus Life

Mosaic United is a multi-million dollar project led by Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far-right minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs. Mosaic United is disbursing millions in Israeli tax dollars and private funding to Hillel International to (in its founders’ own words) combat “critical discourse” around Israel and “the weakening of the Jewish foundations of the family unit.”

Mosaic’s founders have made clear that their vision of Jewish identity, family, and community is singular and exclusionary, and leaves no room for dissent.

Their vision is:

  • Homophobic: Bennett said in 2015, “Judaism doesn’t recognize gay marriage, just as we don’t recognize milk and meat together as kosher, and nothing will change it... ”

  • Misogynistic: Bennett supports Israeli laws that prohibit married women from initiating a divorce, and opposes women playing a role in the Israeli Rabbinate,

  • Racist and Anti-Interfaith: Bennett’s education ministry banned a novel featuring a Jewish-Palestinian romance from Israeli schools out of fears of “miscegenation.”

  • Anti-Conservative/Reform/Non-Orthodox: Bennett’s deputy, Ayelet Shaked, called Reform Judaism “nonsense” and said that under no circumstances would their political party view Reform or Conservative rabbis as legitimate.

  • Anti-Critical Discourse: Bennett advocates for legislation that shames and targets human rights organizations, has banned human rights groups from Israeli schools, and censored books and plays.

Hillel's partnership with Mosaic is an affront to Hillel’s values of inclusiveness and pluralism.

Moreover, Mosaic United recently proposed a database of Jewish students that will target each individual with media from the Israeli government designed to relate to each student based on their “profile.”

This disturbing and intrusive proposal, which the chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students even called “KGB-like,” has been been put on hold thanks to the public outcry and Hillel’s threats to cut ties with Mosaic.

But this is not the end of the database project. A source involved with the project said that “it would indeed move ahead, but only after the tender had been rewritten in a way that eliminated any controversy.”  In quotes from multiple publications, the source reiterated that Mosaic is determined to move forward with the database despite Hillel’s ultimatum, and that the project is simply “frozen.”

It will take more than rebranding to convince us that a database of Jewish students is a good idea. In order to quash the database project, Hillel must to cut ties with Mosaic altogether.

Both the database and Mosaic United are fundamentally corrupt and unaccountable.

Sign the petition today, and call on Hillel to end its partnership with Bennett and Mosaic United.
Petition by
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To: Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation of Jewish Campus Life
From: [Your Name]

On August 12th, 2016, the Israeli government launched its Israel-Diaspora outreach initiative, Mosaic United, promising $66 million to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, Olami Worldwide, and to Hillel International, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, supposedly to strengthen Jewish identity and connection to Israel. Yet Mosaic aims to impose a monolithic vision of what it means to be Jewish, contradicting Hillel International’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and pluralistic Jewish community on campus.

Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far-right Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs, will lead this initiative. Time and again, Bennett has used his power to shut down political views of which he disapproves. In June 2015, he censored a school play, drawing the ire of 2,000 Israeli artists; in December 2015, his Education Ministry banned a novel on Jewish-Arab romance from Israeli schools; that same month, he barred the Israeli human rights organization Breaking the Silence from the Israeli school system. These actions stand in sharp contradiction to Hillel’s stated commitment to promoting “students’ inquiry” about Israel.

Mosaic United’s creators explained that they aim to combat the “undermining of the Jewish foundations of the family unit.” Bennett and his political party, Habayit Hayehudi (“Jewish Home”), promote policies which define the Jewish family in a manner that excludes the families of countless American Jewish students; they oppose same-sex marriage and interfaith partnerships, and they support religious laws that forbid married women from initiating a divorce.

Mosaic United also seeks to combat “critical discourse” regarding Israel. Bennett and the Jewish Home party sit in Israel’s governing coalition, where they advocate for building settlements and annexing large portions of the West Bank. Bennett has called peace proposals “nonsense” and denies that Israel is engaged in a military Occupation. Given his history of targeting his political opponents and censoring views that could disrupt his political aims, Bennett’s commitment to combatting “critical discourse” implies that he intends to shut down a wide range of perspectives that don’t align with his own.

While Bennett and Mosaic aim to censor conversation about Israel and impose a narrow, discriminatory definition of the Jewish family, Hillel claims to welcome “students of all backgrounds;” to foster “an inclusive, pluralistic community;” and to “encourage students’ inquiry” about Israel.

For nearly four years, Open Hillel has urged Hillel to enact policies and support programs that are consistent with its stated values of inclusion, pluralism, and open discourse.

Hillel cannot serve students of all backgrounds if it takes millions of dollars from an initiative that disrespects students’ families and disparages non-Orthodox Jewish practice.

Neither can Hillel claim to foster pluralism, inquiry, or real dialogue around Israel if it accepts millions of dollars from an initiative that seeks to censor critical discourse and to impede Jewish students’ ability to learn and question.

Therefore, we call upon Hillel to reject all funds from Mosaic United and to affirm its commitment to pluralism and open discourse in Jewish campus communities.