WASHINGTON – Sharon Ashley, former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Report, has been tapped to direct Hillel’s new Center for Israel Engagement, the organization announced Tuesday.
Hillel, in a statement detailing the appointment, described the center as “the keystone of Hillel’s new approach to engaging, educating and advocating for Israel on campus.”
The university-oriented group said its mission would include educating college students about Israel; creating a group of “influential, proactive and knowledgeable staff;” and encouraging trips to Israel.
Ashley, who was named editor of the English-language magazine in 2004, has also worked for the office of the president of Israel, the Foreign Ministry and the Melitz Centers for Jewish-Zionist Education.
“I look forward to helping the CIE foster an understanding of Israel that is both honest and meaningful,” Ashley said in the statement. “The center’s critical work will enable students to express why Israel is important to their personal identities – and why it should be and still can be in today’s fraught environment.”
The new center begins its work at a time of heightened activity against
Israel on campuses, and Hillel President Wayne Firestone said that one
of the main goals of the center is “not just being defenders of Israel,
but defining the conversation about Israel on campus... and not allowing
Israel’s detractors to define it by their theatrics and provocations.”
The move also comes after some outside pro-Israel activists and groups
criticized Hillel for not doing enough to foster support for Israel
among students and otherwise fight back against the demonization of
Israel on campus. Others, however, have charged that Hillel has excluded
Jewish voices that did not conform to its line on Israel.
Firestone stressed that the creation of the new center was not in
response to these claims, though he did say one priority would be to
establish standards for quality Israel education by Hillel.
Firestone said Ashley had been selected for the role because “we were
looking for someone who had a real depth of knowledge, and not just
knowledge, but nuance of Israel.”