Eileen Hershenov joined PEN America as Interim Chief Operating Officer in 2023 to help guide the organization through a period of significant internal growth and explosive external challenges to free expression. Eileen has worked for decades, both in the United States and abroad, at the intersection of human and civil rights, technology and law. She served most recently for five years as a Senior Vice President for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), leading their democracy, tech policy and civil rights initiatives, and standing up a litigation program to fight extremism.
Prior to ADL, Eileen served as General Counsel to several of the nation’s leading mission-driven not-for-profits, including the Open Society Foundations, Consumer Reports and the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia. In addition to leading the legal work at each, Eileen helped guide policy. At OSF she was one of several executives who developed the initial agenda for the Foundations’ US Programs work, and was the founding General Counsel of the Central European University, architecting its ability to confer US, Hungarian and European degrees and to establish itself as the first western liberal arts university in a former Communist country. She also led the legal work for the Foundations to purchase the Radio Free Europe archives. At Consumer Reports, in addition to heading the legal team, Eileen also helped develop the grassroots advocacy staff and strategy and pioneered initial plans for a privacy and tech focus in the testing departments. At Wikipedia she led the organization’s policy team as legislative proposals designed to curb some of the operations of Big Tech social media companies also threatened Wikipedia’s ability to act as the world’s largest repository of free knowledge. Eileen also led Wikipedia’s ultimately successful response to Turkey’s site-wide ban of Wikipedia.
Earlier in her career, Eileen worked as an organizer for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a federal district court clerk for Judge Jack B. Weinstein, a litigation fellow at the ACLU, and a litigation associate at the firm of Morrison & Foerster. She holds a BA in Economics from Yale College and a JD from Yale Law School.