Letter to the Hillel Community

Letter to the Hillel Community

Several weeks ago, we wrote to inform you of an incident with a professor refusing to provide a letter of recommendation for a student interested in studying abroad at an Israeli institution. We know for many of you, your concern regarding this incident was compounded last week by the news that a guest lecturer to the STAMPS program presented an offensive comparison equating Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Adolf Hitler. We at Michigan Hillel share your concern that this image denigrated the memory of those killed in the Holocaust by suggesting a false equivalence to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.

We know these weeks have been challenging, for students on campus and the greater Jewish community who feel impacted by these acts and are looking for the University to respond. We want to update you on our efforts in support of students to address these concerns with University administration.

In the last few weeks, staff and student leadership of our Hillel have been in active and ongoing communication with the University President, Provost, Interim Dean of LSA, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, several members of the Board of Regents, and other campus leaders. We have expressed our concerns about these recent incidents on campus, as well as the broader concern of professors and lecturers inserting anti-Israel politics into the classroom or their actions without regard to the impact on the student. We have suggested avenues and resources for more training and understanding around modern-day anti-Semitism, and have offered steps that can be taken to ensure a more inclusive classroom atmosphere. We were pleased to hear the University leadership’s repeated rejection of BDS, including the specific boycott of Israeli academic institutions. Based on our conversations, we are confident the University is taking these issues very seriously by looking to adopt procedural changes around a faculty member’s responsibility to one’s students. We are presently working on a date for a meeting between Hillel’s student leadership board and University administration to further share their perspectives and the concerns of their peers, and to hear about next steps the University is taking. And we are working with the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies to offer an educational program for our community on anti-Semitism.

Again, our bottom line is our students and maintaining vibrant and supported Jewish life on campus. We want to reiterate that our Hillel is here to support all students impacted by these events. We are here to guide any student through challenges that they have faced or may face in the future on campus.

Our Hillel is committed to empowering student voices to be the agents of change on campus and in this world. Our mission – to enrich the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world – follows the teaching of Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” We know that in this world, our students will face tough and complicated situations where they will have the opportunity to speak up, for themselves or others. While these may be challenging issues, our students are developing their voices, acting on their values, and standing up for what they believe in.

We want to express our gratitude for the support and concern expressed by our broader community. We hope in reading this message that you feel your concerns have been raised with the University. We will keep you updated on further progress and the important dialogue that is taking place around these issues on campus. While we understand the University cannot disclose their personnel decisions, we will share any additional steps the University is taking as soon as they are available.


Kendall Coden (’19)
Chair, Governing Board
Bob Stone
Chair, Board of Trustees
Tilly Shames
Executive Director