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With Search Facing Difficulties, Hillel Opts for an Interim Leader

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Unable to attract its ideal candidate to succeed Richard Joel, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life is expected to appoint educator Avraham Infeld as interim director.

Joel, a visionary leader who is credited with giving the group a prestigious makeover, concluded his tenure April 30. He will assume the presidency of Yeshiva University in June.

Infeld is an Israeli who headed the Melitz educational organization and who has been a consultant to Hillel. He was unavailable for comment.

Sources told JTA that approval of Infeld’s candidacy could take place as early as later this week.

Hillel’s executive directorship is considered one of the top positions in international Jewish communal service, and has gained prominence as campuses have blazed with activity surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Joel is heralded with transforming Hillel from local campus chapels to full-service Jewish community centers boasting the theme of “Jewish renaissance,” a catch phrase he coined.

After narrowing the field to five candidates, sources said Hillel’s nominating committee offered the position to its top choice — an Ivy-league educated, 30-something Bostonian who did not come from the Jewish professional world.

But the man declined, saying he didn’t want to relocate.

Two other candidates have since dropped out of the running, the sources said.

Throughout the search process, the nominating committee has asked several top Jewish professional leaders if they wanted to be considered for the post, including Barry Shrage, president of Boston’s Jewish federation; John Ruskay, executive vice president of New York’s Jewish federation; and Cindy Chazan, director of the Wexner Foundation.

All declined.

The nominating committee now plans to hand the search over to a professional firm.

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