Hillel President Addresses Israel at Annual Staff Conference
Last week, at Hillel International’s new annual staff conference, Eric Fingerhut, president of Hillel International addressed the crowd concerning the challenges that Hillels, their staff members and their supporters face concerning divestment and other anti-Israel activities taking place on university campuses. During the Presidential Plenary at Hillel’s Global Assembly in Orlando, Florida, Fingerhut deftly considered Israel as a matter of joy in stark contrast to how on-campus Israel detractors are trying to make it, as he stated (video below (and viewable here)), “what should be our greatest joy – the land and people of Israel – on too many campuses has become our greatest struggle.”
Inasmuch as he did not want to speak about it, “it is not possible to address you this evening without acknowledging the extent to which the BDS movement on campuses and the challenge to Hillel’s Israel guidelines have taken so much of our time these past eighteen months. And the BDS movement seems destined to take even more time in the coming year.”
Fingerhut carefully contrasted the hopes of Hillel in considering Israel as a point of joy versus how the Israel detractors were considering it:
However, we must make the extra effort not just to win these fights, but to do so without losing sight of the joy and Simcha that we experience by building our own relationship with the Jewish state, and that we want our students to experience when we help them do the same.
That is why we will continue to increase our efforts to engage and educate all Jewish students about what Israel means to the Jewish people, and what its detractors on campus are really trying to do.
We must do both. And we can do both.
However, underscoring a problem for Hillel’s staff, students, and supporters with all of the attention that gets focussed onto the divestment bills at various universities, Fingerhut insightfully noted that “each minute spent on these matters was a minute not spent teaching the beauty of our tradition and our path to living a fulfilling, meaningful life.”
For the full remarks of Eric Fingerhut’s Presidential Plenary last week, Hillel International has posted them.