WASHINGTON — The controversy over Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut’s withdrawal from J Street’s annual conference has claimed its first victim: David Eden, the group’s chief administrative officer.
According to Fingerhut, Eden has left Hillel to work as a consultant and to resume “other projects” he was working on “prior to joining the Hillel family.”
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 quit his post at the major organization dedicated to fostering Jewish life on campus under pressure to resign after his handling of his boss’ scheduled appearance and withdrawal from the J Street conference that was held in Washington this week.
Asked by WJW on March 9 what triggered Fingerhut’s 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 State Department and Israel deal with Erekat as the chief Palestinian negotiator, however.
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 students at 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. Swarthmore Hillel voted this month to end its affiliation with Hillel International and take the name Kehilah.