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Hillel faces new campus challenge:
A new president to lead its mission.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
New York City
he organization whose CEO
is praised as a "guru,"
"Svengali" and "pied piper"
Joel's rhetorical abilities are well
is now in the position of
known. Rabbi Moshe Krupka, a
its direction with-
spokesman for the Orthodox Union,
says Joel "realizes the power of lan-
For more than 14 years, Hillel: The
guage in conveying ideas, in motivat-
for Jewish Campus Life has
ing people and institutions." It was
the leadership of Richard
Joel who created the two key catch-
an offer from
phrases at the core of Hillel: "Jewish
renaissance" and the motto, "maximize
the number of Jews doing Jewish."
opportunity for fueling "Jewish renais-
Still, some say the key is Joel's abili-
ty to marry lofty words to real strate-
Joel's move comes as college campus-
gies. "It's not a JFK-style charisma, it's
where Hillel is the central Jewish
something deeper," Shrage says.
have taken on a new
"What he has is a real vision that he
can articulate and bring to life. People < urgency in American Jewish life. The 2-
year-old Palestinian uprising against
know he's for real."
Israel has stirred a wave of activism on
Joel is also a workhorse. Seth
campuses across North America, with
Goldstein, now a New York
students buffeted by anti-Israel
University law school student, earned
cases, anti-Semitic, activi-
an Edgar Bronfman scholarship while
he was a Hillel member at Cornell
Even before the latest wave of
University, which enabled him to
activism, campuses had garnered
work as an aide to Joel for a year.
increasing attention by Jewish organiza-
"He's nonstop; he never says no,"
tions over the past decade when, amid
recalls Goldstein, 24. "His days start
reports of rising assimilation, the stu-
at 6:30 a.m. and go to 2:30 a.m. I
dent population became a prime target
would leave him at 1:15 a.m. and he'd
still be going."
"It's a vital connecting point between
Joel also served as chairman of an
youth and adulthood where many
Orthodox Union commission investi-
opinions and values get shaped," said
gating sexual harassment in the case of
Rubin, Hillel's executive vice presi-
Rabbi Baruch Lanner. In December
Hillel's national and regional sta
2000, the panel released part of a
that Joel's legacy will outlive his
scathing 332-page report blaming O.U.
and that his successor will
leaders for ignoring reports of Rabbi
the well-articulated vision in
Lanner's abuse and urging major orga-
But it is clear the group faces a major
At Hillel, Joel applied the kind of
in replacing him. "We need
power-sharing leadership techniques
the direction of Hillel
that management gurus advocate.
leadership that we want
Colleagues speak of having "autono-
Marlene Post, a
my" and being allowed to "take own-
ership" of their work.
But he also set the bar high. "One
until you know what you're.looking for
of Richard's hallmarks was to say,
for the organization."
`We've done this — now what?'"
Under Joel, Hillel transformed its
Rubin says. "He strives for excellence."
on campus from a local chapel
"Now what?" is a good question. The
search for a new Y.U. head was so fraught • into a full-service Jewish community
center boasting a theme of Jewish ren-
PRESIDENTIAL PRESSURE on page 18
aissance. And as an international organ-
ization, it ballooned, with 500 affiliates
and more than 600 personnel.
On Its Own
In 1994, Hillel gained independence
from B'nai B'rith — its parent organi-
zation since 1925, two years after
Hillel's founding — and funds from
the North American federation sys-
tem. Ten years ago, its budget was $15
million, with about $4 million from
B'nai B'rith. Hillel's budget today tops
$50 million, with $14 million in rev-
enues from the North American feder-
Joel brought on board major philan-
thropists such as Michael Steinhardt,
Edgar Bronfman, and Lynn and the
late Charles Schusterman — and with
them, dollars and prestige.
During his tenure, Hillel partnered
with Birthright Israel, the free trip to'
Israel for 18- to 26-year-olds who had
never been on an organized trip, and
launched the Steinhardt Jewish
Campus Service Corps, a group of
recent college graduates who try to
find unaffiliated Jews and draw them
to Judaism and Jewish events. Hillel
also expanded to the former Soviet
Union and South America.
Joel is known for his skilled manage-
ment, magnetism and personal
warmth: But it was his clarity of vision
— and use of language to transmit it
— that helped Hillel flourish, accord-
ing to many observers.
Joel coined catch phrases — like
"Jews doing Jewish" — and to under-
score his end game, "Jewish renais-
sance." He created a language and cul-
ture that spilled through the ranks of
Hillel, and even surfaced in other
Jewish organizations, with the North
American federation system picking
up the term "Jewish renaissance" to
refer to a new infusion of Jewish iden-
tity and practice.
According to Bronfman, chairman
of the Hillel International Board of
Governors, Joel changed Hillel from "a
place where real people wouldn't be
seen dead at, to a place where Jews
want to go." Still, Hillel doesn't
appeal to all the Jews on campus.
Una diated Role
"There are a lot of students that feel
there's a certain kind of student that
goes to Hillel — someone who grew
up Jewishly active, part of youth
movements," and that students who
don't come to school affiliated "often
don't feel that Hillel is a place where
they feel comfortable," said Daniela
Gerson, the 25-year-old editor of New
Voices, a national magazine written for
Jewish college students.
Organizationally speaking, most
applaud today's Hillel. Joel fashioned
"a phoenix of an organization that
now shares center stage in the Jewish
world," said Neil Moss, chairman of
the board of directors. In fact, Carl
Sheingold, director of the Fisher-
Bernstein Institute for Leadership
Development in Jewish Philanthropy
at Brandeis University, chose Hillel as
a case study for organizational renova-
tion, naming Joel "arguably the most
effective" CEO in the Jewish profes-
But as Hillel looks for a replace-
ment, Sheingold warns organizations
against trying to recreate a past leader,
which sets unrealistic expectations.
Joel is expected to stay with Hillel
through the spring of 2003.
Hillel has assembled a search com-
mittee of 12 members, representing its
philanthropists, national and regional
staff and student activists. Bronfman
said he wants a successor "who will
share our vision" — of "doing Jewish"
and pro-Israel advocacy. The new hire
should be someone "who's young and
strong and knows how to inspire
young people," he said.
"I don't see Hillel changing that
much. We need to keep Ioing what
Meanwhile, the group has plenty o f
immediate concerns. "I think the
biggest challenge we're facing is our
growth. The more you grow, and we've
been growing rapidly, the more expen-
sive it gets," Bronfman said, citing, for
example, the exuberance of Birthright
alumni, demanding follow-up services
But for now, it maintains its direc-
tion, "Richard has plenty of leftover
vision," Rubin said, naming agenda
items such as strengthening Hillel's 27 st
groups in the former Soviet Union,
expanding activities at Israeli universi- 1
ties and the impending launch of two
chapters in Brazil.
Hillel's first priority is its domestic
role, followed by its work in the for-
mer Soviet Union, Bronfman said.
Expanding into Europe is also a con-