Hillel International CEO and President Eric Fingerhut will address J Street U student leaders later this month, the collegiate arm of J Street announced today.
Fingerhut will address 120 national J Street U student leaders at the organization’s Summer Leadership Institute at the 4H Center, just outside Washington, on August 17.
J Street U student board members invited Fingerhut to attend their SLI at a sit-down in early June at Hillel’s headquarters on 8th Street in downtown Washington. Fingerhut did not commit to attending the SLI at that time, leaving the J Street U students present feeling “disappointed.”
“Given the events in March, the J Street U National Board was especially surprised that Mr. Fingerhut did not take us up on our invitation to attend SLI. It is still hard to understand why speaking publicly to over 100 pro-Israel student leaders would not be a Hillel priority,” Benjy Cannon, president of J Street U, wrote in an email released to J Street supporters earlier this summer.
In March, Fingerhut canceled a planned talk at J Street’s annual conference, prompting J Street U students to protest outside of Hillel’s Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center. Other Hillel representatives were present throughout the conference.
A source close to Fingerhut said it was simply a matter of scheduling and not an intentional slight against the student organization. Fingerhut travels frequently for work — he’s in St. Louis this week for the Hillel Institute leadership training and will be overseas next week — and could not offer a firm commitment at the time of the initial invitation.
“All Hillel professionals value opportunities to speak to as many Jewish students as possible,” said Matthew Berger, spokesman for Hillel International, in a statement. “Eric appreciates the invitation from J Street U and looks forward to meeting the students and engaging with them.”
Fingerhut will use the opportunity to engage J Street U student leaders on “issues of mutual concern and importance to both organizations and the pro-Israel community on campus,” according to the J Street U announcement. A source with knowledge of the arrangements said Fingerhut will specifically address the “imperative for J Street U to be part of the coalition against BDS on all campuses.”