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Rice University LGBTQ+ Student Org Severs Relationship with Jewish Group

Rice Pride, the leading LGBTQ+ student group at Rice University in Houston, Texas, announced that it is ending its partnership with Houston Hillel, citing concerns among Arab and Palestinian students about participating in events with the Jewish campus organization. StopAntisemitism broke the news to their followers on Twitter.

“Hillel’s ‘Standards of Partnership’ are incompatible with Rice Pride’s mission to create an accessible and equitable space for queer students of all backgrounds,” Rice Pride said in a statement released last week during the Jewish High Holidays. “Historically, these ‘Standards of Partnership’ have been used by Hillel International to cut ties and spark conflicts with any organization that seeks to engage in spaces that validate Palestinian and Arab experiences, including but not limited to opposing student groups doing fundraisers for humanitarian aid in Palestine.”

Houston Hillel is a local affiliate of Hillel International, which operates roughly 850 chapters around the world and was built to enhance the experiences of Jewish students in college.

“Houston Hillel regrets Rice Pride’s decision to no longer partner with Houston Hillel, the only egalitarian, pluralistic, and inclusive Jewish campus ministry at Rice University,” Houston Hillel said in a statement responding to the announcement. “This decision by Rice Pride not only alienates queer Jewish students and leaves them unsure of their own acceptance in Rice Pride spaces, but also damages the campus climate for all Jewish students.”

Rice University’s campus newspaper, The Rice Thresher, quoted an anonymous LGBTQ+ Jewish student who said Rice Pride’s decision was poorly timed.

“This is certainly a decision that could have waited a single week,” the student said. “To make an announcement of this kind during the High Holy Days places a lot of extra stress on Jewish people, and shows there isn’t the level of cultural fluency I would like to see from Pride leadership.”

Rice Pride and Houston Hillel have co-hosted 12 events since 2016, according to the Hillel’s executive director. Jorge Arnez, a co-president of Rice Pride, told The Thresher that the decision to cut ties was based on the actions of other Hillel chapters and Hillel International’s standards of partnership, not Houston Hillel.

“No one has specifically cited that Houston Hillel itself has made them uncomfortable in any way,” Arnez said. “But they’re under the direction of Hillel International and that’s enough for a lot of students, especially considering current events at Rice regarding the Israeli-Palestine [conflict], that I think that a lot of students wouldn’t feel comfortable engaging [with Rice Pride].”

According to StopAntisemitism CEO Liora Rez, Rice Pride’s decision undermines its stated commitment to being tolerant and inclusive.

“Rice Pride’s apparent conviction that Zionism cannot coexist with queerness belies their supposed commitment to inclusivity,” Rez told The Algemeiner, calling on Rice University to “investigate whether this exclusion violates club rules — and to condemn it regardless.”

Rice Pride’s announcement is not the first time that a campus organization has disassociated with Jews based on support for Israel, which has often been called the Middle East’s only “safe haven” for the LGBTQ+ community.

In Feb. 2022, a student at the State University of New York at New Paltz was forced out of a sexual assault awareness group she founded after sharing a pro-Israel social media post. The incident prompted the US government to launch a civil rights investigation to determine whether the university failed to prevent the discrimination experienced by the student.

Source: https://www.algemeiner.com/2023/09/27/rice-university-pride-group-cuts-ties-with-houston-hillel-cites-concerns-by-arab-palestinian-students/