On Thursday night, Temple Sinai of Roslyn hosted Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of Hillel International. He spoke about the theme of, “Israel on Campus: Facing Unique Challenges in a Threatening World.”
Hillel is currently the largest Jewish student organization in the world. Over 550 colleges and universities in North America have an active Hillel, and Hillels operate in 18 different time zones worldwide.
Fingerhut was appointed president of Hillel in July 2013. Previously, Fingerhut served as an Ohio state senator for eight years from 1991-92 and 1999-2006. In between, Fingerhut was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served there for two years.
After dining with some of Sinai’s college students, Fingerhut began his speech in front of nearly 200 people who came to the event. Much of Fingerhut’s talk centered around the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and how that was affecting students on American campuses
“The incidents of BDS activity is growing,” Fingerhut said. “The response to the BDS movement is growing as fast or faster as the forces of the BDS movement. It’s unfortunate we have to do that, but it is happening.”
However, with the bad news happening, Fingerhut made a point of saying that there are many good things happening as well. “We have robust Jewish life. Hillel is growing. Pro-Israel organizational life is growing,” Fingerhut said.
He divided has talk into three segments. First, it was good news, followed by bad news, and ending with more good news. “I think that the vibrancy and strength of Israel democracy coupled with the ability of American students to interact with Israelis and participate in Israel’s economy is going to build stronger ties as we move forward,” Fingerhut said.
Fingerhut also said that the BDS movement and other bad news have served as a wake up call for Hillel and its groups on campuses.
“We are passionate about the institute of higher education,” Fingerhut said. “It’s really important that you see the whole picture of higher education.”
To end his speech, Fingerhut quoted the man who his organization is named after. Hillel the Elder, an ancient Jewish scholar, once said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?”
After his speech, Fingerhut took questions from members of the audience about both his speech and his career in politics. For more information about Temple Sinai of Roslyn, visit mysinai.org.