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If Not Now, When? An Open Hillel Conference, Harvard

  • Harvard Univ., Student Org. Ctr. at Hilles (SOCH) 59 Shepard St Cambridge, MA, 02138 United States (map)

Civil rights activists.  Jewish thinkers and educators.  Heads of Jewish non-profits.  Student organizers.  We're bringing all these people together -- voices from every part of the political spectrum to discuss, debate, and learn together about the most pressing issues facing the American Jewish community today.

Increasingly, young Jews are increasingly finding that we don't have a home in the communities that purport to represent us.  Open Hillel seeks to change this.  We want a Jewish community where the full diversity of Jewish views on Israel-Palestine is accepted and celebrated.  We want a Jewish community where vigorous discussion, respectful debate, and free discourse are the norm.  We want a Jewish community that all Jews can feel included in, not just those who pass a political litmus test.  We've campaigned for over a year for Hillel to be such a community.  And now, for the first time, we're modeling what that community could be like -- with the Open Hillel Conference.

This conference will create a space for open conversation on Israel/Palestine and other issues of importance to the Jewish community, without external restrictions. Because Hillel International limits the kind of conversations we can have, we decided to show the limitless potential of a conversation not bogged down by "standards of partnership" and the political whims of big donors.

We are inviting left-wingers, right-wingers, Zionists, Anti-Zionists, Non-Zionists, two-staters, one-staters and everyone in between or outside of that spectrum to share their thoughts and ideas on Israel-Palestine. And we'll look beyond the Middle East as well, discussing issues facing our Jewish communities here in America.

(Note: these are the speakers whose names have been publicly announced as of September 4th, and may not be up to date.  Check our blog for the most recent updates)

Judith Butler, professor and queer theorist
David Harris-Gershon, author and Jewish educator
Steven M. Cohen, professor and sociologist of American Jewry
Shaul Magid, professor of Jewish thought
FREEDDOM SUMMER VETERANS (Jewish activists who participated in the American civil rights movement): Dorothy Zellner, Ira Grupper, Larry Rubin


TIME & LOCATION: The conference will take place at Harvard University, from 8 pm on Saturday, October 11th (after Shabbat ends) to 5 pm on Monday, October 13th (Columbus Day).  Those who are observing Sukkot prior to the conference are welcome to arrive early.

The conference will take place on Harvard University's campus, in the Student Organization Center at Hilles (SOCH).  The building is wheelchair-accessible.  For more about the location, see the SOCH's website:

HOUSING: To the extent possible, we will be hosting students and young alumni in Boston-area students' dorms.  Other community members may be hosted in local community members' homes.  Housing will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so if you need housing, register early!  If you have friends or family in the Boston area that you are able to stay with, we ask that you stay with them in order to allow the maximum number of people possible to take advantage of our volunteer hosts.

TRAVEL: We are providing travel stipends to students and recent college grads who would be unable to attend the conference without financial assistance.  The stipends will be distributed on a rolling basis.

REGISTRATION FEE WAIVERS: If the registration fee (early bird: $10 students, $25 non-students; regular registration: $18 students, $36 non-students) creates a financial barrier that would prevent you from attending the conference, please email and we will waive the registration fee for you.