The Muhlenberg College Hillel's president has resigned over a BDS disagreement with the parent organization.
The president of the Hillel chapter at Muhlenberg College has resigned over the organization’s refusal to host a program of civil rights movement veterans who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
Howeover, in contrast to the upheaval at Swarthmore College that a similar event caused, there appears to be little lingering discord among Jewish students. And the president, Caroline Dorn, is still remaining active in the Hillel chapter at the liberal arts college in Allentown, Pa.
Dorn’s resignation follows the Swarthmore Jewish students’ decision to drop the Hillel name over Hillel International’s ban on speakers who support the BDS movement.
The students renamed the group the Swarthmore Kehilah, but despite the change, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia leaders said they would continue to support the group’s programming that is not related to the BDS movement or involves other speakers that seek to delegitimize the Jewish state.
Student leaders and Rabbi Melissa Simon, the director of the Muhlenberg Hillel, both say that the March 26 event was not brought before the student board for consideration and that Dorn worked on her own to bring the speakers.
Dorn acknowledged in an interview that the majority of Jewish students did not want to host the BDS supporters.
There has been a significant increase in the number of Jewish students who study at the Lutheran-affiliated college over the last decade; about one-third of the 2,100 students at the school are estimated to be Jewish, and on a typical Friday night, more than 200 students attend Shabbat services and dinner at the Hillel, according to Simon.
Despite not hosting or sponsoring the March 26 event, Hillel staff and students still attended the panel discussion, which included Dorothy Zellner, a former staffer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who has been a supporter of the BDS movement, and other panelists who have also expressed their support for BDS. Attendees said there were about 100 people in attendance.
Dorn said there was some support for the event, but that “the more religious people with the stronger voices tend to overshadow the Reform students.”
Despite her resignation, she said she still plans to remain involved with the Hillel chapter, and she has attended events since the BDS panel. Her issue, she said, was with Hillel International — not the individual chapter.
“I just felt really uncomfortable with Hillel International policies” of not hosting speakers who promote the BDS movement, said Dorn, “And I felt like I was representing an organization that I didn’t believe in, that was restricting free speech on campus.”