Eric D. Fingerhut is leaving his position as president and CEO of Hillel International to become president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“I grew up in Cleveland,” said Fingerhut in a statement provided by JFNA. “My mother was a receptionist at the ... Cleveland Jewish News for 30 years. My father sold insurance. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my early life was shaped by Federation. I went to preschool at the JCC. I vividly remember carrying signs in the walkathons standing up for Israel during the 1967 and 1973 wars. Never did I imagine that nearly a half century later, I would have the opportunity to lead a movement that has impacted my life and so many others. It has a rich history, and I believe it can have an even more impactful future. I am excited to take on that challenge.”
Fingerhut will replace Jerry Silverman at JFNA. The Times of Israel reported in April 2018 that Silverman planned to step down from his position after his contract ends in September 2019.
"For more than half a decade, the Jewish world has watched as Eric spearheaded transformational change at Hillel," said Mark Wilf, chair of the JFNA board of trustees, said in a statement. “With a clear vision for the future of Jewish life on college campuses and universities, he took a 90-year-old organization and made it new again. We believe he can bring the same energy and imagination to Federation. He’s the right leader at the right time.”
“We were certain that someone with the intellect and stamina to serve in the Ohio state legislature, in the U.S. Congress, as chancellor of Ohio’s preeminent higher educational system and as president and CEO of our community’s most important campus organization is well positioned to lead JFNA,” said Richard Sandler, chair of the JFNA CEO search committee and immediate past board chair of JFNA, in a statement.
Jared Isaacson, executive director of the Cleveland Hillel Foundation, said via email when reached in Israel, “As Eric prepares to move on to his new professional challenge, I am reminded how much of a positive impact he has made in supporting and advancing Jewish campus life around the world."
“He has significantly helped raise the profile of Hillel, making it possible for so many campuses and individual and local Hillel organizations to increase Jewish education, leadership and engagement opportunities for so many students and professionals. We will miss Eric in the Hillel world, but i am pleased that he will still be a very active member of the North American Jewish community, ensuring that JFNA continues to see the important position Hillel has in our larger Jewish community. All of us at Cleveland Hillel wish him much success in his new role at JFNA.”
“We are proud of Eric’s accomplishments and believe his appointment to lead JFNA is a testament to his success over the last five years at Hillel,” said Tina Price, chair of the Hillel International Board of Directors, in a statement posted to the organization’s Facebook account. “During his time with Hillel, Eric guided us through an ambitious strategic plan, focused on building the best talent in the Jewish world, and measuring our engagement to ensure excellence on every campus. We are excited to continue partnering with him in his new role.”
Congratulations to my good friend @eric_fingerhut - the incoming President and CEO of @jfederations. Eric is an outstanding leader, deeply committed to his Judaism and his Zionism. He is also a mentch.— Dani Dayan (@AmbDaniDayan) May 16, 2019
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, provided the following statement on Fingerhut’s hiring.
"Since taking on my position at ADL in 2015, I've come to know Eric Fingerhut in his role as Hillel CEO,” said Greenblatt in the statement. “His creative thinking and steady management have made him an excellent steward of that organization and I am thrilled that he is bringing those gifts to JFNA. ADL already works on the ground with Jewish federations across the country as well as on a national basis through efforts such as the ADL/SCN communal security task force. And I personally have benefited enormously from the partnership and wisdom of outgoing JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman. As Eric comes on board later this summer, I look forward to deepening our organizational engagement and to increasing my personal collaboration with him. He's truly an inspired choice to serve as the next CEO of JFNA."
Fingerhut grew up in Cleveland Heights and University Heights and also has lived in Shaker Heights and Mayfield Heights. Fingerhut celebrated his bar mitzvah at the former Beth Am Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and was later a member of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike.
He had been president and CEO of Hillel International since August 2013. He replaced Wayne Firestone, who left Hillel in April 2013. From 2011 until he joined Hillel, Fingerhut also previously worked as vice president of education and STEM learning at Battelle, a Columbus-based independent research and development organization.
He graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in 1977 and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1981 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He received his law degree from Stanford University in 1984. He also worked with campus chapters of Hillel as chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents from 2007 to 2011.
He served as an Ohio senator in 1991 and 1992 and again from 1997 to 2006. He also served one term on the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993 and 1994.