Eight outstanding Hillel professionals were awarded the Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award for embracing the organization's mission and have enriched its efforts with enthusiasm, dedication, commitment, and profound joy.
Named for the president of Hillel from 1988 to 2003, the award is bestowed upon consummate professionals with an extraordinary faithfulness to Jewish principles, a profound interest in the welfare of friends and colleagues, and a passion for connecting new generations to the joy of Jewish living.
Keri Copans with Wayne Firestone.
Hillel at the University of California, San Diego
Thoughtfulness and sensitivity coupled with strength and vision are among Copans' many attributes. Burning with curiosity, she is always asking questions; wanting to know not only how, but why things are the way they are. With experiences in a multi-campus environment, with a high percentage of commuter students, Copans is always seeking news methodologies for engaging students Jewishly. She continually pushes beyond the comfort zone, physically, emotionally, and intellectually: organizing High Holy Day services, staffing alternative breaks, and taking on a pilot initiatives are but a few examples. Initially active as a student leader, this Exemplar grew professionally from Steinhardt Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellow, to Steinhardt Scholar, to program director, to assistant director and in every instance, not only made things better, but helped those who followed achieve success as well.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna
The Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU
Hired to work primarily with Orthodox students, Rabbi Sarna’s efforts have led to a phenomenal growth of all Jewish denominations on campus, making The Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU a magnet for Jewish life. Through the use of intellectual and experiential learning, he has inspired students who had never before engaged in Jewish study to discover how Judaism is relevant to their lives. He organized one of the first public rallies raising awareness of genocide in Darfur and traveled with a group of students to the Gulf Coast following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. When tragedy struck at Virginia Tech, Sarna traveled there with students to provide counseling, show solidarity and to offer any help needed.
Wayne Firestone names Dan Yagudin as Hillel Exemplar.
Senior Program Director
Hillel at University of Miami
With charisma, character, and a bit of chutzpah, Yagudin is helping to rebrand Hillel, transforming perceptions from negative to one of the hippest places on campus. New, positive relationships have been formed with lay leaders, faculty members, and university administrators because of him. Colleagues marvel at Yagudin’s infectious enthusiasm and sheer magnetism. By creating programs for Jewish Greek students, doubling the number of students applying for and participating in Taglit-Birthright Israel and crafting Shabbat Yo’Mama to Shabbat Obama (and McCain), Yagudin never stops thinking outside the box.
Rabbi Mychal Copeland
Stanford University Hillel
Copeland is a firm believer in pluralism, has fostered understanding and respect between Orthodox, liberal, and secular Jews and has improved the relationship between Hillel and Chabad. Well-respected by clergy of all faiths, she encourages open dialogue and brings a Jewish perspective to a multitude of campus discussions. When giving advice, whether from the bima or in a personal conversation, Copeland has the ability to step back, look at the big picture, and a offer strategic assessments that are always tailored for the individual or the situation. A wonderful mentor and educator, she helps students make Jewish connections in the environmental, feminist, LGBT, and academic communities. They are urged to become involved, engaged, and proudly celebrate their Jewishness.
University of Chicago Hillel Executive Director Dan Libenson named Hillel Exemplar.
University of Chicago Hillel
In only a few years, Libenson has completely transformed his Hillel’s image with students, the host university, donors and the broader Jewish community. New partnerships with the university’s Student Affairs department, faculty members, and an ever-increasing spectrum of students, have resulted in University of Chicago Hillel being perceived as an indispensible campus partner. Insightful, intellectual, and innovative, Libenson has the gift of being able to lead, yet values fellow staff members, colleagues at other Hillels, and students as teachers and mentors. He is pursuing bold new approaches to engaging students by helping them create communities, while fostering connections to Israel and Jewish traditions that will guide them as they make adult choices. Unafraid of failure, these efforts are capturing the attention of the Jewish world and have implications for the entire Hillel movement.
Tufts University Hillel
A believer in building student leaders, Estes has encouraged students to explore Jewish life in ways that are celebratory, fun and fit their personal circumstances. A beloved colleague and supervisor, colleagues appreciate her and the professional rapport they've developed together. Estes nurtures younger colleagues and teaches them to excel. Others organizations on campus and in the broader community look to her as a trusted and valued partner. As a result, Hillel’s image continues to shine. A great negotiator with a reputation for fairness, this Exemplar excels in balancing the often complex relationships that exist between students, board members, university partners and colleagues.
Hillel at University of California, Davis
Barkan, the first Israel Fellow to ever be named as a Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence, was instrumental in helping to overturn a ban on University of California students studying abroad in Israel. He took on a seemingly insurmountable task by mastering the labyrinthine University of California system, building community coalitions, and harnessing every possible resource to effect policy changes that have statewide and international implications. Barkan has ensured that thousands of students will now have the opportunity to study abroad and fall in love with the State of Israel, the Land of Israel and the People of Israel, who he has represented so magnificently over the past three years. A frequent speaker at synagogues, community organizations, and on several campuses, he humanizes Israel for others in a very personal way and in turn, brings new resources back to this multi-campus Hillel.
Darin Diner, z"l
Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach
Darin Diner, who last week lost his courageous battle with cancer, understood that students connect to Jewish life through a multitude of portals. He crafted an impressive and eclectic array of programs and activities on multiple campuses with a high percentage of commuter students. When first-hired, Diner was confronted with unexpected administrative challenges in almost every area of the Hillel’s operation. With incredible, positive energy, he methodically, strategically, and tenderly transformed every aspect of this once-struggling Hillel. It is now regarded as one of the premier organizations in the region. The Board is now engaged and empowered to advance Hillel's mission while providing substantive guidance. Fundraising efforts have succeeded both beyond budget and expectation. Because of his vision and tenacity, students and staff are no longer “wandering Jews operating out of backpacks and the trunks of cars.” Their new building is a beautiful home-away-from-home in a prominent location that serves as a tangible beacon of Jewish pride.