“Together: A Community Event” is an appropriate title for Avraham Infeld’s presentation next month at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s free event. Infeld, president emeritus of Hillel International, will focus on “connecting the Jewish people in Israel to the Jewish people in America” in his talk on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.
“My claim is that we’re first a culture,” Infeld told the AJP by phone from his home in Israel. “I was astounded that people in America think of being Jewish as a religion. We’re about peoplehood, not religion.”
This distinction becomes even more important following the tragic shootings in Paris, he says, adding that the attacks “were aimed at the Jewish people as part of the Western world. The battle is between those who believe themselves to be right and that anybody who is not with them is wrong,” referring to Islamist fundamentalists.
“Jewish culture says that ‘you don’t have to be me to be right.’ We don’t send missionaries to Africa. We don’t try to convert people,” says Infeld, adding that the Jan. 7 attack in Paris on Charlie Hebdo by two Islamist extremists — killing 12 people — was on a satirical newspaper that made fun of everyone equally. “The tenets of democracy and Jewish culture are very similar. It’s no accident that the attacks were made on a satirical newspaper and a Jewish supermarket.”
Jewish identity and strengthening the State of Israel — through the five core principles of the Hebrew language, Land of Israel, Jewish values, Jewish religion and Jewish community — have been the backbone of Infeld’s career as a Jewish leader and educator. A native South African, he immigrated to Israel in 1959. He is married to Ellen Infeld, who’s originally from Woodbury, N.J., and they have four grown children and 10 grandchildren.
Infeld was appointed president of Hillel International in 2004, after 30 years with the Melitz Center for Jewish Zionist Education in Jerusalem. He serves as a consultant on tikkun olam (repair of the world) to the Reut Institute and has been a roving ambassador for Limmud International. In May 2012, Infeld was elected chairman of the board of the Hillels of Israel.
“He’s so committed and passionate about the global Jewish community and Israel,” says JFSA campaign manager Bryan Pisetsky, “that it rubs off on anyone who hears him.”
For more information, contact Pisetsky at 577-9393, ext. 126, or [email protected].