By Richard M. Joel
(Hillel President and International Director Richard M. Joel's farewell remarks, Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York City, April 6, 2003.)
This has been an extraordinary evening, the culmination of an extraordinary journey. I won't see the last of these 700 friends. You all inspire me. You taught me. You have given me more than I can ever tell you. And, please God, it doesn't end, it just changes venues. What Hillel is, is really emblematic of the Jewish renaissance which we simply must have. Because the world needs us so much. Thank you all so very much.
For almost 15 years, Esther and I have had the privilege to be on a wondrous journey, to share that journey with our children. You have enabled that journey, accompanied us on the way, shared the sites, scaled the heights and dared to dream together with us. This has been a sacred journey, a Jewish trip to our birthright, a confrontation with our past and our future, a reaching out to the God of Israel, carried toward Sinai on these wheels. In many ways our dreams came true, for we have been tour guides for hundreds of thousands of young Jews en route to their Jewish destiny. May God show them their Jewishness is valued, that it matters, that we have a global purpose, and that we can fashion the renaissance of life informed by the values of our sacred story: the Torah. In the great tradition of Broadway, we as a people are blessed to pursue our impossible dreams. We yearn for Camelot. We aspire to nobility like Jean Valjean. We even think of what we might do if we were rich men. Ultimately, like the best of the theater, Hillel has defied cynicism and pointed to hope and truth -- to kedusha.
Dear friends, you have enriched our lives, we can never repay you. You have helped us to spend our time wisely and richly. My colleagues have modeled excellence, commitment and loyalty. Our leaders have demonstrated trust and partnership and human investment of the highest order. Our students have reminded us that Jewish history lies before us as they will shortly take leading roles on the stage of a Jewish destiny.
Thank you for your wonderful love and kindness. We will always remember our journey together as my family has the privilege to embark upon another adventure. Hillel represents so much of the best within us. I leave it in your hands. I leave it in your hearts. Guide it well. I know you will. Thank you very much.