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

In an earlier article the wrote about the reaction of J Street U members to a speech given at their Student Leadership Institute by Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut.

Fingerhut was at J Street U’s SLI in order to discuss common ground between the J Street U students and Hillel’s mission. Fingerhut believes that common ground is rooted in a shared antipathy towards the BDS ((Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) Movement.


That article described the stream of tweets issued by the students in attendance during Fingerhut’s speech, nearly every one of which expressed annoyance at Fingerhut’s refusal to discuss the issue clearly most important to them, and which many said they believed was the cause of the BDS: the “Occupation.”

By “Occupation,” the J Street U students mean the audacity of Jews to live in parts of Israel which it acquired in defensive wars, and which were previously not controlled by any sovereign nation (i.e. not really occupied, but that is of no moment to them.)

The was asked to post the entirety of Fingerhut’s speech, so that people can see for themselves that he issued “a strong statement imploring these students to understand that all Jewish groups are seeking peace, that people must understand the historical context and the current daily ramifications for Israelis, and that all pro-Israel students should be part of the anti-BDS coalition, even if they don’t get to dictate the language.”

Here it is:

ERIC FINGERHUT, PRESIDENT & CEO, HILLEL INTERNATIONAL REMARKS TO J STREET U STUDENT LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE August 17, 2015 As prepared for delivery Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. I want to congratulate Amna Farooqi, the new J Street U president and congratulate Benjy Cannon for his tenure.

I want to begin by thanking those of you in this room who are leaders of the Hillel on your campus. I know by your presence here today that you are passionate about Israel, and that is an important part of Jewish life. But you also know that Jewish life is rich and varied, and that living a life infused with Jewish learning, culture and tradition enriches us as individuals and the communities in which we live. And Hillel’s vision is to help every student build an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel.

So I don’t want to miss this opportunity to invite anyone who has not explored with us all the ways to connect with Jewish life to check us out. We need everyone to help us build the vibrant Jewish communities on campus that are the essence of Hillel’s mission.

The good news is that we have created hundreds of these vibrant Jewish communities, and the word is spreading. Hillel is already the largest Jewish student organization in the world, and we are growing quickly. We now have Hillels in eighteen countries on five continents, and serve over 550 campuses in North America alone.

I returned yesterday from visiting Hillels in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. In the last year, we have added Hillels in nine locations in Germany, and we recently opened our 20th Hillel in the Former Soviet Union – in Siberia no less! Two of the Hillels in the former Soviet Union are in Muslim countries. We serve eleven campuses in Israel. Back in the U.S, our board approved six new affiliates in the past year and we have applications pending from a dozen more. Increasingly, the future of the Jewish people is found at Hillel. We believe that the future is bright indeed, and we want you and every Jewish student involved it.


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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the 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:


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