OpinionSchools & Higher Education

Support Hillel on campus

Redirect your donations from hostile universities to the Hillels that foster Jewish life.

High Holiday service preparations by Hillel at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Source: Hillel at Virginia Tech via Facebook.
High Holiday service preparations by Hillel at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. Source: Hillel at Virginia Tech via Facebook.
Dr. Jonathan Berkowitz
Dr. Jonathan Berkowitz is a lecturer at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business.
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld is the senior rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, Canada.

Hillels need us. In the fight against antisemitism and anti-Israel activism—think of the BDS movement and Israel Apartheid Week—Hillels across North America have been on the front lines for years. They have acted quietly but effectively to maneuver through choppy waters on university campuses filled with wrong-headed ideologies. The time has come for us to magnify our support for Hillel.

One hundred years ago, the first Hillel was founded at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Hillel’s mission then and now is “enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world.” Resources provide for spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual well-being. The organization serves as a Jewish educational resource, a social network and a place to develop leadership and professional skills.

Hillels have also been forced to play a political role. They are a conduit between Jewish students and university administration concerning campus antisemitism. The upsurge in violent and hate-filled rhetoric in response to Israel’s current war against Hamas places great strain on Hillels’ financial resources. They must be diverted to hire advocacy coordinators, provide security training and counsel students living in fear. That shouldn’t be the case but, unfortunately, it is.

For many years, universities have benefited from the tremendous generosity of Jewish donors. Supporting higher education is a Jewish value. But today’s campuses host a toxic brand of hatred for our people and the Jewish state. Some administrations are receptive to our pleas for action and support, but too many others are not.

Offending schools don’t deserve our financial support. If you donate to such a university, consider redirecting your funds from general university coffers to Hillels.

Use your resources to:

  • Enable Hillel to host much-needed Shabbat dinners for students.
  • Help Hillel combat antisemitism.
  • Show students they are not alone on campus.
  • Help Jewish students be proud of being Jewish.

We encourage you to reallocate your donations from universities to Hillels, whether you give $18 or $18 million.

From the Shulchan Aruch we learn that one cannot renege on a financial commitment—tzedakah—but you may transfer it to another party when there is good reason to do so. There is no better reason than what we Jews face on campus today.

If you are not yet a donor to Hillel, now is the time. As Hillel himself said, “If not now, when?”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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