An employee with a leading Jewish organization was fired after secretly planning to document an internal, off-the-record phone call with a top Jewish community official and pass the information along to a group of liberal activists critical of Israel, according to email correspondence obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Danny Blinderman, until recently an employee with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), offered to "pass along" details of an off-the-record phone call with Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut to a group of liberal activists affiliated with the Open Hillel movement, which has sought to increase outreach with anti-Zionist activists on campus as well as those who support boycotts of the Jewish state.
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Blinderman, who was an official in the AJC Boston office, sent an email to a listserv of Open Hillel activists offering to document the AJC’s private Oct. 30 call with Fingerhut and pass along details to the group, according to the correspondence.
"As your resident inside person, it will be my pleasure to listen in on the call, and pass along any and all things of relevance Fingerhut says to the listserv," Blinderman wrote in an email to the Open Hillel listserv a day before Fingerhut’s call with AJC.
Open Hillel activists have long been at odds with the official Hillel movement—one of the largest Jewish groups on campus—over its policy of not permitting anti-Israel speakers at it events.
Open Hillel maintains that the official Hillel’s standards for inclusion are too stringent and restrict pro-Palestinian advocates of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement from presenting their views to students.
Blinderman, a member of Open Hillel and J Street U, told the listserv that Fingerhut’s off-the-record talk could provide an opportunity to expose Hillel.
"I would like to underlie that this is a fascinating opportunity, since rarely do we get a chance to hear what Fingerhut says when he thinks no one is listening," Blinderman wrote.
Blinderman was fired from the AJC after the organization found out about his plan to leak the call to his fellow Open Hillel activists, according to an AJC official and others familiar with the situation.
"To our dismay, we learned after the fact that information about an off-the-record AJC conference call with the President and CEO of Hillel International was shared with unauthorized outsiders," AJC spokesman Kenneth Bandler told the Free Beacon. "This constituted a serious breach of trust. Accordingly, the individual who shared the information is no longer employed by AJC."
Sources outside of the AJC familiar with the situation also confirmed that Blinderman has been fired as a result of his clandestine plan.
David Eden, chief administrative officer for Hillel International, said that the organization is aware of Blinderman's efforts and finds them "regrettable."
"This is a regrettable situation, but AJC has given us every confidence that this type of situation will not repeat itself," Eden told the Free Beacon.
Blinderman also solicited suggestions from list members on what he should "listen for and take notes on."
Some members of the list urged Blinderman to record the call and suggested ways in which he could do so.
"Is the talk completely off the record? As in, are you allowed to put your phone on speaker and record it somehow?" asked Becca Rosenthal. "I’d love to be able to get his voice with whatever he talks about, assuming that he’s going to talk about us (someone is going to ask him)."
Others pressed Blinderman and other listserv members to keep the plan a secret.
"This is a very cool opportunity," Aryeh Younger, editor and chief of the Beacon Magazine, wrote from his work email account. "Danny—make sure that everyone on the list keep this confidential, so you don’t get in trouble."
"Yes, everyone will need to keep this confidential," Blinderman agreed in a follow-up email to the group. "This is an off the record briefing, and this is interesting mainly to be able to see what Fingerhut has to say behind closed doors."
Blinderman wrote that he could potentially obtain an internal recording of the call.
"There actually might be a recording of the call—since conference calls like this are often recorded for playbook," he told the list. "I doubt I’ll be able to get the file—and even if I did the off-the-record nature of the meeting makes it moot anyway."
List member Ben Winter recommended that Blinderman download smartphone applications that can record the call so he can later distribute it to the list.
"I’m assuming you have a smartphone of some sort," Winter wrote. "There are numerous apps you can download (free or very cheap) that record calls. You can even send the file to different people after the call."
Winter included in his message a link to an article explaining how to record phone calls on a smartphone.
Lex Rofes, a onetime member of Hillel’s student board, said that while this was a "great chance," Blinderman should not feel "any pressure" to record the call.
"Sounds great! Danny, I think it’s important to say that even if it is technically legal and not immoral to record this, please don’t feel any pressure to do so," Rofes writes. "That’s up to you, and you understand dynamic at your work better than any of us do. But regardless this should be a great chance, as you said, to get a sense of what he’s saying when he [Fingerhut] doesn’t know anybody from OH [Open Hillel] is listening."
An email to Blinderman seeking comment about the efforts to document and disseminate Fingerhut’s remarks were not returned.
One official with a Jewish organization who would only discuss the situation on background said that it could lead Open Hillel to be further marginalized in the Jewish community.
"When organizations stoop this low, they are not taken seriously and are shunned by the Jewish community. And if you don’t believe me, just ask J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami," the official said.