Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Life applauded eight professionals from around the world for their outstanding commitment to their campus Hillels by presenting them with the 2004 Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award at the recent International Professional Staff Conference in Stamford, Conn.
"The extraordinary dedication and love of Jewish community these exemplars exhibit are inspirational to the entire movement," said Hillel President Avraham Infeld. "Our students are fortunate to benefit from their spirit and expertise."
Amy Ravis, the Tzedek Hillel director at Hillel at Columbia University and Barnard College, was also named the first recipient of the Professional Staff Tzedek Award for "challenging her students to see the importance of Tzedek and sparking in them the desire to be leaders in the social justice movement."
The 2004 Richard M. Joel Exemplars of Excellence are: Hillel at Kent State University Director Jennifer Chestnut "For lovingly and insightfully creating new realities and possibilities for Hillel and Jewish students at Kent State University."
Creating a vibrant Hillel from almost nothing, Chestnut is equally adept at working with major donors on a capital campaign as she is sitting with students to plan a program. One of her most notable achievements has been building a board that strongly represents her constituencies and regional leaders. Greater Miami Hillel Program Director Melina Gimal "For bridging physical and cultural divides and for modeling that Jewish renaissance and ruach know no boundaries."
A former Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Fellow at Hillel's Charles and Lynn Schusterman International Center, Gimal played a dynamic and instrumental role in helping to develop and support new Hillels in South America. Now based in Miami, she spearheaded the creation of Hillel Second Generation (H2G), the first community-based Hillel in North America. Michigan State University Hillel Program Director Jeffrey Lazor "For embracing the beauty of living Jewishly and for enthusiastically engaging students in their own Jewish journeys."
Lazor first began his involvement in Hillel by participating in a birthright israel trip as a student in 1999. Upon his return to campus, he immediately translated his enthusiasm into programming, and his magnetic personality engages people of all ages to become involved in Hillel. St. Petersburg (Russia) Hillel Director Misha Levin "For believing in miracles and nurturing a rebirth of Jewish living and celebration in Russia."
One of the founders of Hillel in the former Soviet Union, Levin is a loyal and trusted friend amongst his students. He saw the potential for Jewish life to blossom after the fall of the Soviet Union and has empowered his students to explore their Jewish identities and become community leaders. Pierce and Valley Colleges Assistant Director Rick Lupert "Teaching others to share the songs and the soul of the Jewish people with joy and passion."
Known for his artistic and musical talents, Lupert encourages students to explore Judaism through their creativity. He helped to create an award-winning Jewish student arts and culture periodical and develop well-designed brochures and Web sites, and his guitar-led services enrich students' Shabbat experience. North Carolina Hillel Executive Director Or Mars "Informing North Carolina Hillel with his values and his vision and for making Jewish life accessible and awesome."
Mars is loved throughout the campus and local communities for his strength of character, warm and embracing personality, and passion for Judaism. He not only understands the importance of thinking of the big picture, but he is always finding new and creative ways to relate to his students. Johns Hopkins University Hillel Director Rabbi Joseph Menashe "Effecting a metamorphosis of Jewish life and inspiring Jewish pride at Johns Hopkins University."
Menashe's dedication to pluralism serves a role model for the diverse Jewish student community on his campus. His tremendous work building the Shabbat and kosher meal plans has resulted in thriving programs, and the new Smokler Center for Jewish Life, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building, stands as testament to his considerable fund-raising skills. Brown University Hillel Acting Director Megan Nesbitt "Infusing the Brown campus community with her neshama and inspiring others by her words and deeds."
Turning a challenging situation into an opportunity for personal and professional growth, Nesbitt has taken on new responsibilities with energy, talent and an unwavering devotion to her students. Cheerful, approachable and a great problem-solver, her Jewish spirituality sets an example for her students while she demonstrates the importance of living a balanced life.