Berkeley Hillel leaders urge students to reconsider J Street rejection

Hillel leaders at the University of California, Berkeley, are urging the Jewish Student Union on campus to reconsider its rejection of J Street’s campus affiliate.

The Jewish Student Union, an umbrella body for UC Berkeley Jewish student groups, voted last month to deny membership to the school’s J Street U chapter.

“We respect the right of the Jewish Student Union, an organization sponsored by UC Berkeley student government, to make its own decisions, but we encourage JSU to reconsider its vote and include JStreetU as a member,” wrote Berkeley Hillel’s board president, Barbara Davis, and its executive director, Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, in a letter sent to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and to j. weekly, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Jewish newspaper.

They also wrote that the J Street U chapter will receive support from Berkeley Hillel, explaining that the dovish student group adheres to Hillel International’s Israel guidelines.

The Jewish Student Union’s Nov. 16 vote to exclude J Street garnered media attention and spurred commentary around the world. There were 10 votes against admitting J Street U, nine in favor and two abstentions; admission requires a two-thirds majority, according to j. weekly.

“J Street is not pro-Israel but an anti-Israel organization that, as part of the mainstream Jewish community, I could not support,” Jacob Lewis, co-president of the campus Israel activist group Tikvah, told j. weekly, explaining his opposition to admitting J Street U.

In an Op-Ed in the Forward newspaper, four leaders of UC Berkeley’s J Street U chapter wrote that the exclusion was “emblematic of a larger trend.”

“Even as pillars of the American Jewish establishment recognize the need to include J Street U and others like us in the broadening tent of pro-Israel advocacy, those on the right double their efforts to shut us out,” the four students wrote.