Senior Hillel executive resigns

David Eden Courtesy Hillel International
David Eden
Courtesy Hillel International

The controversy over Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut’s withdrawal from J Street’s upcoming Washington, D.C. conference has claimed its first victim—David Eden, the group’s chief administrative officer.

Reports of Eden’s departure began swirling on March 12 after New York Times religion columnist Mark Oppenheimer tweeted about hearing of the resignation. Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, who spoke to Washington Jewish Week on the condition of anonymity, say Eden has left his post at the major organization dedicated to fostering Jewish life on college campuses.

Asked by WJW on March 9 what triggered his boss’ pullout from the March 21-24 conference, Eden blamed it on J Street’s invitation to Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat to speak at the gathering. Erekat has compared Israel to the Islamic State and threatened an economic boycott against Israel, Eden said. “Eric [Fingerhut] holds participation in events to a rigorous standard,” he stressed. Both the U.S. State Department and Israel deal with Erekat as the chief Palestinian negotiator, however.

Hillel International has made no public announcement about the rumors of Eden’s departure and has declined to comment on the record for this story. Thirty Point Strategies, the Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm run by former George W. Bush speechwriter Noam Neusner, which represents Hillel International, added only that Hillel had “no personnel announcements to make at this time.”

Numerous messages left for Eden on his cell phone have gone unanswered in recent days. Meanwhile, Hillel International staffers have offered different, often conflicting, answers when asked when Eden can be expected back in the office.

On Wednesday, Hillel staff told reporters that Eden was out of the office for the day and was expected back in on Thursday.

On Thursday, WJW was told that Eden was “traveling” and is expected back at his desk in the middle of next week.

A reporter visited Eden’s Rockville high-rise Thursday at 11 a.m. and found Eden at home. He declined to be interviewed.

Eden was the point of contact for the media during the several controversies that have rocked Hillel in the past two years, including the decision by Swarthmore College, an elite liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, to reject Hillel International’s guidelines against welcoming those it deems are anti-Israel, anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. This week, Swarthmore Hillel voted to disaffiliate completely from Hillel International.

[email protected] @dmitriyshapiro

Washington Jewish Week Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey W. Melada contributed to this story.

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