Wayne Firestone, Hillel's executive vice president for the United States and former executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, has been elected as Hillel's next international president. A lawyer, academic, businessman and former student activist, Firestone will build on the work of current President Avraham Infeld when he takes over the position in September.
Firestone's new position will take him full circle in the Hillel movement, where he started as a student activist at the University of Miami in the 1980s. Just as he has witnessed the changes at Hillel during the past 20 years, he hopes to reintroduce Hillel to students, parents and the Jewish community during his tenure as president.
"We need to say, 'We're this colorful, loud, challenging, innovative place on campus, come be a part of us.' It's the exact opposite of when I was in college, when everyone was trying to look less Jewish, to assimilate," he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency soon after his appointment was announced. "Today there's a desire to define yourself as you choose. This will be an important wave for us to ride as we reintroduce ourselves to the community and to young people."
As the staff director for Hillel's Strategic Planning Process, Firestone has already been working closely with students, Hillel professionals, lay leaders and other stakeholders in the Jewish community to gain a better insight into the lives of today's college students – widely known as "Millennials" – and map a new strategy to reach out to them effectively. The resulting five-year plan for the organization includes lofty new goals, such as doubling the number of students Hillel reaches and creating a $100 million endowment.
"We need to be an organization based on strategy rather than prior assumptions," Firestone said.
Hillel's professional and lay leadership are excited about the organization's future under Firestone's guidance.
"Having worked closely with Wayne, I am thrilled that he will be succeeding me as president," Infeld said. "He is a talented manager, an astute thinker and a mensch."
A graduate of Georgetown Law School, Firestone, 42, was named executive vice president for the United States in September 2005. For the previous three years, he served as executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, a partnership of Hillel and the Schusterman Family Foundation that brings together 35 pro-Israel groups working on college campuses. His career at Hillel marked his return to the United States after seven years in Israel, where he led the Israel Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League, founded Silicon Wadinet, Ltd., a firm that helped foster the capitalization and growth of technology companies, and worked as an administrator and adjunct lecturer at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology.