Photo Credit: Twitter
Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut at J Street U's Student Leadership Institute. Aug. 17, 2015

Lots of campus organizations have their retreats in the summer. It’s a time for energizing the members before they return to campus in the fall.

J Street U, the campus arm of J Street, is having its Summer Leadership Institute this week, just outside of Washington, D.C.

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On Monday, Aug. 17, Hillel International’s CEO Eric Fingerhut addressed the organization that claims to be pro-Israel. Fingerhut was looking to stake out common ground. The only issue the J Street U students wanted Fingerhut to discuss, however, was the Israeli “occupation” of the Palestinian Arabs.

Fingerhut was invited to address J Street’s SLI back in June, when he met with J Street’s leadership to discuss ways the two organizations could work together. The June meeting took place after Fingerhut, who originally agreed to speak at J Street’s annual conference, pulled out of that commitment.

After Fingerhut’s no-show at the March J Street Conference, a mob of J Street conference attendees descended on Hillel’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, demanding to know why Fingerhut refused to address their event. They pasted post-it notes haranguing Fingerhut for canceling on them, along with a box of letters demanding a meeting with him.

The Hillel leadership concluded that Hillel and J Street U share a mutual interest: opposing the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) Movement. It was on this topic that Fingerhut planned to speak at the J Street U’s SLI.

Fingerhut, according to J Street U members present, said he “applauded” the campus group for opposing BDS, and told them “we appreciate what you do in building vibrant Jewish community.”

He also sought to mollify them by feeling their pain, as when he told them “sometimes you have also been subject to unfair criticism. That is wrong too and contrary to Jewish principles.”

But despite the earlier agreement, this time it was J Street U’s turn to pull the rug on Fingerhut.

With Fingerhut seeking to establish common ground, J Street U leadership members and the organization itself seemed to mock Fingerhut on social media: “. repeatedly calls for common ground b/w & . We will never compromise on condemning occupation.

J Street U and its members tweeted throughout Fingerhut’s address to the students, with most of the messages demanding to know whether Fingerhut would “acknowledge the occupation threatens Israel’s Jewish and democratic future as much/more than bds?”

There also was clearly a generation gap problem, with J Street U students incredulous that Fingerhut appeared to be boasting that “@HillelIntl is opposed to racism and islamophobia.” The students wanted none of the liberal credentials being offered: “Jewish leaders, lets be clear: mentioning Jewish solidarity w/ civil rights in the 60s doesn’t mean you uphold those values today.”

But the constant refrain was annoyance that Fingerhut was not addressing the issue foremost on the minds of the J Street U members who were listening to the Hillel executive: Israel’s “Occupation” is the central issue and absolutely their central concern.

The incoming 2015 J Street U president Amna Farooqi made the point quite clearly at the SLI gathering, during the Question and Answer session following Fingerhut’s address: “We are not here to talk about the pro-Israel conversation on campus. We are here to talk about the occupation.”

In fact, Farooqi announced at the event that 2015 for J Street U is going to be all about their favorite topic: “year – long anti occupation work.”

Here is a portion of J Street U’s simultaneous tweets during Fingerhut’s talk to J Street U’s Student Leadership Institute:

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

18 COMMENTS

  1. Sad, amusing and tremendously educational all at the same time. When will Hillel learn that they can't dance with J Street U? It serves them right. As long as they believe they can flirt with them in a vain quest to find some mythical common grounds with these young Stalinians, they'll keep losing. Besides, Fingerhut missed a golden opportunity to tell the J Street U ignoramuses the truth about the occupation they obsess so much about, namely that it will remain in place as long as the Palestinians refuse to conclude a final peace treaty with Israel, one that would put a final stop to their never-ending claims. Ah, yes, but that's the problem, precisely. Hillel is no match, and yet they insist that they can handle it all on their own. This was an excellent lesson. The question remains whether they will learn anything from it or keep doing what they've always done with the same less-than-impressive results. It's their call.

  2. Alright, here is how it goes. Speak, write, listen, see, not look, at history; it is a great teacher, often disregarded, and burned in the passion and flames of people “owned” by a movement, a cause, owned or nearly owned of what is beyond self.

    When you arise in the morning ask yourself, “am I human, humane, and for humanity or am I the “slave” of some cause against humanity?”

    There is no doubt that the world wants peace. Treaties accepted, and not meant to be broken, litter the streets of peace-breakers over and over.

    Then in quiet moments of contemplation, not owned by man or moment, ask yourself, “what can I do before I die for peace, what can I do before I enter eternity for peace?”

    Eternity~

    Imagine 4.5 billion years ago the first elements of Earth were placed, and at that time a decimal point [.] was placed down. Every N/sec since a zero [0] has been placed to the right of that decimal point.

    Ten [10] minutes from now a one [1] will be put down. That indescribable fraction is “not” a fraction of eternity, but rather a fraction of “understanding” it.

    In that place of quiet contemplation, that place of peace, ask yourself this: “How shall my spirit dwell in eternity?”

  3. Alright, here is how it goes. Speak, write, listen, see, not look, at history; it is a great teacher, often disregarded, and burned in the passion and flames of people “owned” by a movement, a cause, owned or nearly owned of what is beyond self.

    When you arise in the morning ask yourself, “am I human, humane, and for humanity or am I the “slave” of some cause against humanity?”

    There is no doubt that the world wants peace. Treaties accepted, and not meant to be broken, litter the streets of peace-breakers over and over.

    Then in quiet moments of contemplation, not owned by man or moment, ask yourself, “what can I do before I die for peace, what can I do before I enter eternity for peace?”

    Eternity~

    Imagine 4.5 billion years ago the first elements of Earth were placed, and at that time a decimal point [.] was placed down. Every N/sec since a zero [0] has been placed to the right of that decimal point.

    Ten [10] minutes from now a one [1] will be put down. That indescribable fraction is “not” a fraction of eternity, but rather a fraction of “understanding” it.

    In that place of quiet contemplation, that place of peace, ask yourself this: “How shall my spirit dwell in eternity?”

  4. Only a fool believes it possible to turn a snake into puppy even if the snake says it's a puppy. There is no common ground between zionists and those who seek israel's demise, except that the latter attracts misguided or historically ignorant Jews. Hopefully Hillel's admin will use this nasty but perhaps needed experience as a springboard to reassess what is needed on campus to protect Jewish students.

  5. The Jewish people "liberated" the subject area in 1967 when they attained a unified control over it, thus gaining the capability of exercising sovereignty. See Academia.edu. Search for Wallace Brand.
    You are promoting the Arabs PR game by using the term "occupied". The term "disputed" also adds gravitas to their bogus claim to this area that was rejected in 1920 at San Remo.

  6. Let us admit to the truth, Israel is in fact occupied and Israel must do everything within its power to end the occupation of Israel, especially by those evil elements, both local and foreign, that are the true obstacles to peace.

  7. Having previously been in an informal discussion group with Ben Ami founder with George Soros of J Street it is my experience that they will fabricate facts in order to prove their statements. In light of this and their significant International funding including Saudi Arabia any interest of Hillel in cooperating with them should be seriously questioned.

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