In his first remarks to Hillel staff as interim president, veteran Jewish educator Avraham Infeld declared that he will help Hillel ensure that "every Jewish student anywhere in the world will feel proud to be a member of the Jewish people."
Infeld added that development, training, Israel education, and building Jewish identity would be his priorities during his term. Infeld was appointed for one year while Hillel's Presidential Search Committee continues its work. He reiterated that he would not be willing to accept the position on a permanent basis but intends to turn over to his successor "a Hillel that is at least as good" as the day former President Richard Joel left.
"This will not be a year of waiting until the new president arrives," Infeld remarked. "Things will happen."
Infeld said that at the end of this year, he plans to return to his position as Hillel's Consul for Jewish Affairs. In that capacity, Infeld visited more than 60 campuses around the world, speaking with students, professionals and lay leaders. "I love this organization," he said. "That love has grown as I have worked with Hillel for the last year and a half."
Infeld, 60, has invested a lifetime in building Jewish identity and strengthening the State of Israel. A native of South Africa, he immigrated to Israel in 1959. He is married to Ellen Infeld, originally from Woodbridge, N.J., and they share four children and 10 grandchildren. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Bible and Jewish History, and of Tel Aviv University's Law School.
Infeld has been involved in many of the most creative educational developments in the State of Israel. In the 1970s, he founded Melitz, a non-profit educational service institution that fosters Jewish identity rooted in a pluralistic understanding of Jewish life and the centrality of Israel. The creative pedagogic techniques developed by Melitz are the model for most of the informal education in Israel today. Following his retirement from Melitz in 2001, Infeld joined the Hillel professional staff as the Consul for Jewish Affairs.
He has helped to bridge the divide between Israel and the Diaspora as chairman of Arevim; director of the birthright israel Planning Process; founding chairman of San Francisco Federation's Free Loan Society in Israel; and chairman of the Board of Israel Experience, Ltd., an independent company created by the Jewish Agency.
Infeld has sought to promote Jewish values among Israelis as president and chairman of Israel Forum, a nationwide volunteer movement he helped found in 1990. He has conducted breakthrough work in bringing together secular and religious Israelis as director general of the Shalom Hartman Institute and director general of Gesher Education Affiliates.