Members of Hillel, a Jewish student organization, feel that the organization's Student Finance Committee (SFC) allocation is inadequate for next year. Members said that they will not be able to provide for all the needs of the Jewish community as a result of the cuts they received to their budget.
Hillel asked for $28,309.44 and received $12,437.81, about $7,000 less than they received the year before.
Hillel co-chair Andrew Shapiro, a sophomore, said that the reduced budget leaves Hillel unable to fund all the cultural and religious events it now funds. Shapiro listed Shabbat, the high holidays, Purim, Israeli Independence Day and Passover as events Hillel might have a difficult time funding next year, depending on how it chooses to direct its spending.
"Where [the cuts] are going to hit us the hardest is in terms of Shabbat," Shapiro said. He said that SFC is trying to apply its $25 food-per-meeting limit to Hillel, which is something, he said, that SFC has not tried to do in the past. "Our ritual and religious observation includes food. Kosher food costs more [than other food]," Shapiro said.
Four representatives from Hillel met with President Nancy Dye to ask the President's Office to help with its funding. Shapiro said Hillel was not happy with Dye's response.
He said Dye told the Hillel representatives that Oberlin is a secular institution which does not support religion financially.
Shapiro said that Dye's position is problematic because it reduces Judaism to religion, when it is also a culture. "It's as much about atheistic secular identity as peoplehood," Shapiro said. "It's part of the life blood on campus," Shapiro said. "For the president and College not to support that is a big deal."
Dye said she spoke with Hillel about how they can find ways to work within their budget and still fund Shabbat. "We talked about the fact that SFC has to make decisions concerning many organizations, none of whom get exactly what they want," Dye said. "I think there are ways they can work [with the budget they were allocated]."
"It seems to me that it's entirely possible to fund Shabbat," Dye said.
"The President's Office does not fund the general operations of any student organization," Dye said. "We're not in the business of funding general budgetary needs, and we can't be, for obvious reasons."
Dye said that the students who met with her probably felt she was not being responsive.
Shapiro said he did not think SFC would cut the Hillel budget significantly because this year's proposal was basically the same as that of year's past.
SFC treasure Becca Barnes, a junior, listed several reasons why SFC cut Hillel's budget the way it did.
She said that Hillel is providing more of a service to the Jewish community than other student organizations are supposed to provide for the communities they represent. "We feel Hillel should get money from other places than the student activity fee," Barnes said.
Shapiro agreed, noting that the College funds interns representing the Asian-American, Latino, lesbian, gay and bisexual and African-American communities through the Multicultural Resource Center. The Jewish community intern and the Jewish Chaplain are funded through two outside organizations, Cleveland Regional Hillel and the Jewish Federation.
Barnes said that other cultural organizations on campus, such as La Alianza, Abusua and the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Union, have complained that Hillel's budget is inflated.
"It's my understanding that SFC in the past felt uncomfortable giving Hillel so much more money than other cultural groups," Barnes said.
Barnes also said that while CDS currently reimburses Hillel for the partial cost of Shabbat dinners students eat at Kosher Co-op rather than CDS, the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association does not.
She said that SFC thought it could cut Hillel's food costs and other expenditures not necessary to celebrating the holidays.
SFC and Hillel have sent Dye letters supporting Hillel's attempts to find alternative funding. Barnes said that SFC is prepared to provide Hillel with more money through ad hoc funding if its attempts to find alternative funding fall through.
“We felt we couldn’t not fund them,” Barnes said.
Barnes said that SFC tried to evaluate Hillel’s budget compared to other budgets and cut proportionally.
“Very few organizations got more money than they did last year,” Barnes said. She said Hillel is not looking at its budget cuts as part of the whole spectrum of budget cuts that were made.
Hillel also funds visiting lecturers. Shapiro said these speakers are a part of Jewish intellectual life and cannot be cut from Hillel’s budget because Hillel has already contracted with them — a requirement, he said, for SFC to fund the speakers.
“The President’s Office does help student organizations with programming from time to time — that’s on a proposal basis,” Dye said.
Shapiro said he did not know what Hillel will do to find alternative funding. “We’re basically incapacitated,” he said.
Shapiro added that he feels a “certain breed of anti-semitism” exists on campus. “It has to do with the stereotype of Jews as the rich business money lenders who control the world,” Shapiro said. This stereotype, Shapiro said, serves to keep Jewish students quiet about their concerns.
But now, Shapiro said, “I have the feeling the president is going to find out that Jewish students are not going to stay quiet. It’s sad that it takes something like that for this to happen.”
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 25, May 23, 1997
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