Hillel President Avraham Infeld was honored this week with the prestigious Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Previous recipients of the award include Prof. Nehama Liebowitz and Rabbi David Hartman.
Hebrew University President Menachem Magidor presented the award "in tribute to [Infeld's] invaluable contributions to building Jewish identity, and in recognition of his abundant efforts on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people." Magidor called "[Infeld] a central and inspiring figure in Jewish education whose life's work in establishing and heading several of the Jewish world's leading and most innovative educational institutions has ensured that Jewish identity, allegiance to Israel and Jewish values are badges worn proudly and knowledgeably by many thousands of young Jews throughout the world."
Infeld joined Hillel as its counsel for Jewish affairs in 2001 and has served as its president since 2003. During his tenure, he has implemented and overseen many changes, ranging from upgrading student services in local Hillels and enhancing the organization's presence beyond North America to increasing its connection with Israel and deepening its relationships with other Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency, the World Union of Jewish Students and Taglit-birthright israel. In his visits to over 60 campuses on three continents, Avraham Infeld has continued to convey his characteristic and vigorous message of Jewish pride in Jewish identity.
Infeld, who immigrated to Israel from South Africa in 1959, is a graduate in Bible and Jewish history from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a graduate in law from Tel Aviv University. Using his extraordinary skills, he has successfully translated his vision for Jewish education into numerous educational initiatives in Israel. Indeed, his founding of the Melitz Center for Jewish Zionist Education in the 1970s firmly established the notion of a pluralistic Jewish identity and heritage as a valid approach to Jewish life and as a central precept of the State of Israel. Moreover, the innovative pedagogic techniques that he developed at Melitz continue to serve as models for numerous informal Jewish education frameworks in Israel. In his many subsequent leadership roles - as chairman of Areivim, as president and chairman of the Israel Forum, as a key architect of Taglit-birthright israel, as director-general of the Shalom Hartman Institute and of the Gesher Educational Affiliates, as chair and founder of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation's Israel-based Amuta committee and as chairman of the board of Israel Experience, Ltd. - Avraham Infeld has devoted his energies to strengthening relations between Israel and the Diaspora, to promoting Jewish values among Israelis, and to bridging the rift between secular and observant Jews.