Affable, understated Hillel International Board of Governors member David Bittker has died of pancreatic cancer at age 73.
Bittker, one of the architects of the revitalized Hillel, was a B'nai B'rith leader who, in 1994, helped Hillel gain independence from the international Jewish fraternal organization that had sustained it for 70 years. He served as the first chairman of the board of directors of the newly independent Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Bittker and his wife Arline created Hillel's first fellowship, the Bittker Fellow, which enabled a recent college graduate to work in Hillel's Schusterman International Center to help develop student leaders. Many Bittker fellows have gone on to work with Hillel and elsewhere in Jewish professional leadership. The Bittkers have been an important presence at Hillel events and have helped to recruit other lay leaders to Hillel work.
"David's passing is a real blow to Hillel," says Hillel International President Avraham Infeld. "David had a deep and sincere commitment to young people and the perpetuation of the Jewish community. He gave of his time, his counsel and his resources straight from the heart and it showed. He was a mentor, a role model, and a powerful force for Jewish renaissance. He will be profoundly missed."
Bittker was active throughout the Detroit community. In addition to his support for Hillel, he was a benefactor of BBYO B'nai Brith Great Lakes Region, B'nai B'rith Michigan Regional, University of Michigan Hillel and Hillel at Michigan State University.
He is survived by his wife, Arline, sons Alan and Ron, daughter Jodi Tobin, grandchildren Daniel, J.J. and Bradley Bittker; Rayna and Ethan Tobin; Hallie and Shoshana Bittker; and sister Lorraine Fisher.
May the Bittker family be comforted among the mourners of Zion.