Hillel Apologizes for Canceling Israeli Deputy FM's Princeton Talk

Denying Hotovely the opportunity to speak was an 'isolated incident,' Princeton Hillel officials say

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Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The international CEO of the Hillel Jewish campus life organization and the director of the Hillel center at Princeton University in New Jersey have published an apology for their decision to cancel a talk on Monday by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

In a letter to the Jerusalem Post, Hillel International's CEO, Eric Fingerhut, and Rabbi Julie Roth, the director of Hillel at Princeton, noted the large amount of Israel-related programming hosted by Hillel at campuses across North America, but added: "we occasionally make a mistake in how we do our work. We made such a mistake this week, and the Hillel community and the wider Jewish world is owed an explanation for what occurred."

According to a Hotovely spokesperson, Princeton Hillel invited the deputy foreign minister to speak more than two months ago. The visit was not allowed to proceed only hours before it was due to take place after close to 200 left-wing activists, headed by a student organization called The Alliance of Jewish Progressives, signed a petition opposing her planned visit. Despite Hillel’s withdrawal, Hotovely, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, spoke elsewhere at Princeton, after the campus Chabad organization stepped in and agreed to host her speech.

"Unfortunately, we did not treat the Israeli deputy foreign minister with the respect that her office deserves," Fingerhut and Roth wrote. They attributed the decision to a failure by Princeton Hillel's Israel advisory committee, which reviews Israel-related Hillel programming, to review plans for Hotovely's appearance.

"To be clear: This was not a good enough reason to postpone the event, and for that mistake, we apologize," the two wrote. They noted that Hotovely's plans to speak under Hillel's auspices at Columbia University and New York University had gone ahead.

Denying Hotovely the opportunity to speak at Princeton, they wrote, "is an isolated incident – and Hillel International stands squarely behind the value of hearing from the Jewish state’s elected leaders."

In response to the cancellation of the event at Hillel, Hotovely said: “A liberal dictatorship is preventing American students from hearing an official representative of Israel’s government. She told Haaretz that she was “saddened at the lack of openness toward different views of Israel.”

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