Israel Sela, JDC director for Hungary, dies in Tel Aviv

Other key projects he helped develop included the expansion and enrichment of the JDC/Lauder Foundation International Jewish camp at Szarvas in southern Hungary. The camp annually draws 2,000 Jewish youngsters from post-Communist countries.

Trained as a social worker and educator, Sela spoke more than half a dozen languages fluently.

The son of deaf parents, he received a Ph.D. from Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington. An expert in sign language, he implemented innovative programs for hearing-impaired Holocaust survivors and other Jews.

The eulogies at his funeral near Tel Aviv last week were translated into sign language.

Sela had a broad smile and an infectious zest for living that endeared him to his friends and colleagues.

Throughout his illness, he maintained a sense of humor and a dedicated commitment to his work and to the Jewish community he served.

"He taught us about life — but he also taught us how to die, and in this sense he was unique," the JDC's assistant executive vice president, Amir Shaviv, said at a commemoration ceremony at JDC headquarters in New York.

"He stared at the inevitable end — yet instead of being paralyzed with fear waiting passively to die, he became a dynamo of life, generating energy and achievements," Shaviv said. "If his days were numbered — he made sure each one of them counted; and death had no dominion over him until his very last moment.''

Sela is survived by his wife, Leah, son Guy, daughters Anat and Adi, and three grandchildren.