Truly underway, marching from the staging area across the street from the convention center to Hillel HQ in Chinatown
Truly underway, marching from the staging area across the street from the convention center to Hillel HQ in Chinatown
Many more photos below….
As noted here before, it takes 11 minutes to walk from the DC convention center, where the J Street conference is held, to the headquarters of Hillel International. After announcing that he’d come and address the 1,100 Jewish college students here at the conference, Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut later backed out, saying that he couldn’t speak at the same conference as Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. This left J Street U, the college arm of J Street, understandably miffed
At noon today, hundreds marched from the convention center down to Hillel HQ to deliver signed letters expressing their dismay with Fingerhut (reproduced in full below).
In addition to the letter, marchers were given sticky notes and told to write on them, “Dear Eric, you cancelled on [insert name here].”
This was the most energized, fun event of the convention so far. There was no chanting and there were no banners or signs, nor did organizers seek a protest permit. Instead, the students who spoke struck a firm, but diplomatic tone. “We offer ourselves as partners,” J Street U President Benjy Cannon told the assembled students and other supporters.
Supporters of Open Hillel have also been calling the Hillel offices all day to leave messages for Eric Fingerhut in a similar vein. They are particularly aggrieved about the recent legal threats from Hillel International toward Swarthmore Hillel — which, partly in response to those threats, announced a name change today.
This whole thing is leading to some fascinating divisions within the wider world of Hillel. When Fingerhut pulled out, 30-some-odd Hillels around the country came out in support of their student delegations attending. And I noticed a handful of Hillel rabbis and directors at the march itself.
Strange days for Hillel, friends.
Keep reading below the letter to Fingerhut for more photos.

Dear Mr. Fingerhut,
Over the past two weeks, we have heard from you and from Hillel International that a “broad consensus of stakeholders” prevented you from speaking with over 1,000 pro-Israel, pro-peace students in attendance at the J Street National Conference.
Despite being an integral part of the Jewish and pro-Israel communities on campus, and despite our tireless work to ensure Israel’s future, you were still unwilling to publicly engage with us at our conference.
Sadly, we must ask: who is Hillel meant to serve? A small group of donors, or the thousands of students who are the future of our communities?
Despite hearing that J Street U students are an important part of the Hillel community, we believe that actions speak louder than words. Now is the time for such action.
If you are ready to engage with us in a serious way, we ask that you set up an on-the-record meeting between the J Street U National Student Board and Hillel International’s Board of Directors before the starts of the 2015-2016 academic year.
We leave Washington on Tuesday afternoon. We ask that you let us know before then whether you will convene a meeting between the J Street U National Student Board and Hillel International’s Board of Directors to help ensure that Hillel’s priority is engaging seriously with students, or whether you will not help convene a meeting for Board Members and donors of Hillel to develop deeper relationships with the students that make up the Hillel community.
A delegation of J Street U leaders will return to tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2:00pm to receive your response.
Respectfully,
[Name] [School]

J Street U President Benjy Cannon giving the assembled crowd their instructions
J Street U President Benjy Cannon giving the assembled crowd their instructions
One of the letters being delivered by the marchers
One of the letters being delivered by the marchers
Truly underway, marching from the staging area across the street from the convention center to Hillel HQ in Chinatown
Truly underway, marching from the staging area across the street from the convention center to Hillel HQ in Chinatown
J Street U leaders having their Law & Order moment
J Street U leaders having their Law & Order moment
There are about 3,000 people at the conference, including 1,100 students. It's not clear how many total were on the march, but as you can see, a significant portion of the conference came
There are about 3,000 people at the conference, including 1,100 students. It’s not clear how many total were on the march, but as you can see, a significant portion of the conference came
A number of Hillel professional leaders were present, including Rabbi Getzel Davis, one of the Harvard Hillel rabbis
A number of Hillel professional leaders were present, including Rabbi Getzel Davis, one of the Harvard Hillel rabbis
Assembling across the street from Hillel HQ
Assembling across the street from Hillel HQ
Arriving at Hillel HQ
Arriving at Hillel HQ
J Street U marchers arrayed in front of Hillel HQ
J Street U marchers arrayed in front of Hillel HQ
J Street U student leaders address the crowd
J Street U student leaders address the crowd
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Hillel staffers were visible through the windows, watching from the inside. Talk about a fish bowl!
Hillel staffers were visible through the windows, watching from the inside. Talk about a fish bowl!
J Street U President Benjy Cannon with a list of demands that was left in front of the Hillel building when the crowd dispersed
J Street U President Benjy Cannon with a list of demands that was left in front of the Hillel building when the crowd dispersed
The sticky notes begin
The sticky notes begin
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"Dear Eric, you cancelled on Nathan Foster :("
“Dear Eric, you cancelled on Nathan Foster :(“
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