Fingerhut, who served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Ohio in 1993 and 1994, will succeed Jerry Silverman. The Times of Israel reported in April 2018 that Silverman, who assumed the JFNA leadership in 2009, planned to step down at the end of his contract this September.
Jared Isaacson, executive director of the Cleveland Hillel Foundation, confirmed Fingerhut was leaving Hillel for JFNA.
“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,” Isaacson said in a statement.
JFNA represents 147 Jewish federations and over 300 “network communities,” who collectively distribute more than $2 billion annually through annual fundraising campaigns, planned giving and endowment programs, according to JFNA. The money supports local social services and Jewish educational needs, as well as social service and immigration needs in Israel and other Jewish communities around the world.
“For more than half a decade, the Jewish world has watched as Eric spearheaded transformational change at Hillel,” said the chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees, Mark Wilf, 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.”
Fignerhut’s start date is Aug. 6, 2019.
Fingerhut had been president and CEO of the umbrella group of campus Jewish organizations since August 2013. He replaced Wayne Firestone, who left Hillel in April 2013. From 2011 until he joined Hillel, Fingerhut worked as vice president of education and STEM learning at Battelle, a Columbus, Ohio-based independent research and development organization.
Fingerhut served as an Ohio state senator in 1991 and 1992, and again from 1997 to 2006.
In a statement provided by JFNA, Fingerhut spoke of growing up in Cleveland and noted his mother was a receptionist at the Cleveland Jewish News for 30 years.
“I didn’t realize it at the time, but my early life was shaped by Federation,” he said. “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.”