Hillel President Avraham Infeld received an honorary doctorate from Muhlenberg College at its recent commencement ceremony alongside 448 graduates and two other honoraries. He was hooded by Dr. Mark Stein, an assistant professor of history, with a specialty in Middle East history. Muhlenberg College President Peyton R. (Randy) Helm, nominated Infeld after meeting him last summer in Israel at a Jewish Council on Public Affairs/United Jewish Appeal mission.
“I found him tremendously impressive as a spiritual leader whose interest in and commitment to young people, and to interfaith understanding, was inspiring,” Helm said.
Infeld’s colleagues at Hillel heralded the honor as both a tribute to Infeld’s dedication to Jewish campus life and to the organization’s valued contributions to the Muhlenberg College student experience.
“This honorary degree has a double value to us at Hillel. On the one hand it is a deserved recognition for Avraham personally as an inspiring teacher, mentor and informal educator. Moreover, it is a recognition by an outstanding college of the value of Hillel’s partnership with the campus community and the potential to promote learning and growth outside of the formal classroom. This is the direction of the future of education, and we are thrilled with the deepening of our relationship with Muhlenberg both locally and nationally,” said Wayne Firestone, Hillel’s president-elect who will succeed Infeld in September.
Muhlenberg College Chaplain Rev. Peter Bredlau concurred with Firestone’s sense of the importance of the Muhlenberg – Hillel relationship.
“This demonstrates the ongoing relationship that Muhlenberg has not only with its own Hillel but with Hillel International. It was also a wonderful coincidence that Avraham was here at the same time that Muhlenberg was recognized as the first liberal arts college in the nation to achieve accreditation as a Hillel Foundation,” Bredlau said.
“As a Lutheran college, we believe that no individual or group of individuals has the capability to understand absolute truth, but that all individuals have the capacity to comprehend truth and thus are worthy of respect. This is, fundamentally, why our college is committed to welcoming members of different faith traditions into dialogue and into our community. It is part of who we are. Avraham Infeld understands and values this, and has dedicated his life to stimulating spiritual reflection and religious commitment and understanding among young men and women,” Helm added.
For commencement each year, Muhlenberg honors educators, religious leaders, entertainers, businessman and politicians. Unlike other colleges and universities, Muhlenberg does not pay commencement speakers. The committee instead looks for people like Infeld who have a message similar to the mission of the college.