Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Roanoke Virginia; Greensboro, North Carolina
When was the first time you became active with Hillel, and what did you do?
When I was a student at Tufts in 1974, I started Concerned Students for Israel with the help of the Hillel director.
If you could speak with your 18 year-old self, what advice would you give?
Always work hard and do your best as it will give you the most options as you go through life. Not all of your endeavors will be successful but that does not mean you are a failure. In the end, the key to success is in the execution — ideas are a dime a dozen.
What experience moved you to support Hillel?
As a young adult in my 30s, I was active in the Greensboro Jewish Community and UJA Young Leadership Cabinet. I loved being Jewish and felt that the renaissance of the Jewish people was important for not just the Jewish people but the world at large. My father was on the Hillel Board of Governors in the early years with Edgar and Lynn and Michael and thought they needed the younger generation. So he called me and asked if I would join the Board of Governors and I agreed. At the first meeting I attended, I talked about to Richard Joel about joining the Board of Directors also. At my first meeting I was hooked. I find Hillel to be the institution with the biggest opportunity to engage the next generations of the Jewish people in North America. It is our task as an organization to make the opportunity a reality.
How have you seen Hillel change as an organization over the time of your involvement?
We have had great leaders and have built the organization over the years. We have built the organization on the shoulders of talented and committed people. Today, we have better talent and a clearer vision of what it takes to create a sustainable organization to accomplish the vision of the organization. I also think that Hillel U and the Talent Pillar are huge steps forward.
How do you think Jewish life on campus has changed since you were a student?
It is more complex and the Jewish students come from a broader spectrum in terms of commitment and knowledge and feelings toward Israel and Jewish life.
Hillel does so much on college campuses. What are the issues that are closest to your heart?
RK: I am most concerned about getting Jewish students engaged on their Jewish journeys and committed to being a part of the Jewish people.
What role/s do you play as a supporter or leader with Hillel today?
I am a past chair of the Board of Directors and of the Board of Governors. I am still on the Board of Governors and co-chair the Hillel U Advisory Board.
What are you most proud of from your work with Hillel?
I am proud of the fact that Hillel has remained an entrepreneurial organization that constantly evolves and grows with each new cohort of students. I am proud of the creative engagement programs, Israel programs and particularly the Talent development programs to recruit, develop and retain the talented Hillel team.
What do you hope to help accomplish now in your work with Hillel?
I am focusing on Hillel U and Talent development.
When you describe to your close friends what your work with Hillel means to you, what do you say?
I tell them that there is no organization that is more fulfilling to be involved with and that has a greater impact on the future of the Jewish people.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
My mother and father — Tobee and Leonard Kaplan.