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Hillel Honors Avraham Infeld with Renaissance Award

by Hillel News |Jun 05, 2010|Comments

Avraham Infeld.
Avraham Infeld.

More than 350 students, educators, philanthropists and Jewish community leaders from around the world traveled to the campus of Columbia University in New York City to pay tribute to Hillel President Emeritus Avraham Infeld when Hillel presented him with its Renaissance Award for enriching the campus, the Jewish community and the world.

(Shalom TV created a video of Avraham Infeld's inspiring presentation. View it online.)

The event, which raised over $1 million for Hillel's global work, was chaired by Hillel leaders Neil and Karen Moss. Hillel Board Vice Chair Carol Smokler served as dinner vice chair. View photos from the event.

Honor Avraham Infeld by making a contribution to Hillel.

In honor of Infeld, at the event Lee Hendler, the president of the Harvey and Lyn P. Meyerhoff Fund and the Past Chair of Hillel's Joseph E. Meyerhoff Center, presented Hillel's Meyerhoff Award for Meaningful Jewish Experiences to Minsk Hillel Director Max Yudin for his group's Seminar on Wheels: A Student Expedition to the Jewish Sites of Belarus. Minsk Hillel is one of 27 Hillel groups in the former Soviet Union.

PDF. Infeld Dinner Journal (5 Mb)

[Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or higher.]

Infeld, who served as Hillel interim president and president from 2003 to 2006, is a world-renowned Jewish educator who has created and led educational and social justice endeavors in Israel and the United States including Melitz; Arevim; the San Francisco Federation's Amutot; the Israel Experience, Ltd.; the Israel Forum; the Shalom Hartman Institute; Gesher Education Affiliates; and the Chais Foundation. In recognition of his unique contributions to the Jewish people, in 2005 he was awarded the Hebrew University of Jerusalem's prestigious Samuel Rothberg Prize for Jewish Education, the first specialist in informal Jewish education to be so honored.

Hillel Board of Directors Vice Chair Karen Moss explained that "we chose to honor Avraham at Columbia University, in a setting surrounded by books and learning, because this is an environment in which he and Hillel thrive. Avraham is an educator who makes learning - Jewish learning - come alive whenever he speaks, whether his audience is a group of college students on campus or Jewish leaders on a mission to Israel. Avraham has been an inspiration, a remarkable teacher (often a provocateur), and a dear friend."

Neil Moss, the chairman of Hillel's Board of Directors when Infeld became president, said, "Karen and I both understood Avraham's magnetic effect on students, his passion for Israel, his openness to the varieties of Jewish celebration, and his commitment to global Jewish peoplehood. We knew he would be an ideal choice for Hillel president."

Wayne L. Firestone, who succeeded Infeld as Hillel president, said that "Avraham is an educator and an innovator who has contributed enormously to Hillel and to the Jewish people. He has often done so behind the scenes, with little fanfare and with little desire for publicity. Despite his wonderful, outsized personality and his flair for the dramatic, Avraham's chief concern is that pintele yid, that little spark of Jewishness that is concealed even in the least-educated of Jews."

"Avraham is a man of learning. Of speaking. Of doing," said Hillel Board of Directors Chair Bea Mandel. "He is profoundly committed to Israel. But he is also a globetrotter. He can have a profound impact speaking to a room of a thousand, or in a one-on-one conversation."

Randall Kaplan, the chairman of Hillel's International Board of Governors, served as chairman of the Board of Directors throughout Infeld's presidency. In presenting the Renaissance Award to Infeld, Kpalan said, "Avraham I never ceased to be amazed at your level of energy, your creativity, your enthusiasm, your ability to make complicated ideas compelling, and your ability to enchant students and lay leaders alike. May you continue to inspire us for many, many more years to come."

The highlight of the evening may have been the remarks of Minsk Hillel Executive Director Max Yudin who described Infeld's influence on Jewish students in the former Soviet Union: "Avraham has helped our Jewish students to increase their Jewish literacy and Jewish affiliation; to find their own cultural identification with Judaism; to expand their Jewish horizons. It is life-changing help. It is fair to say that Avraham has contributed to the spiritual rebirth of young Jews in the former Soviet Union." He concluded by adding that Infeld introduced him to his wife: "Each time Avraham sees me here in United States or in some other country, he asks how is HIS girlfriend doing."

Additional coverage:

JTA reports on the event.

Wayne L. Firestone remarks.

Maxim Yudin remarks.

Randall Kaplan remarks.

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