Hillel named eight outstanding Jewish student leaders as the 2003 Student Exemplars of Excellence.
"These individuals are student leaders on their campuses, in their communities and among their peers," said Hillel Interim President Avraham Infeld. "By engaging other students, they are helping to build thriving Jewish campus communities around the world."
The award was presented at Hillel's Charles Schusterman International Student Leaders Assembly in Honesdale, PA, and was made possible through the generous support of Philip and Susan Rudd Cohen.
The 2003 Student Exemplars of Excellence are:
Art Institute of Chicago student Anna Polishchuk of Highland Park, IL.
"At a school with a very small Jewish population, Anna has risen to meet many challenges with great clarity, maturity and grace," said Kerry Bayowitz, program director of the Hillels Around Chicago: Multi-Campus Center. "She believes it is her responsibility to do whatever is in her power to make a difference."
Anna founded the pro-Israel student group Students for Peace in the Middle East as a response to the rising anti-Israel sentiment on her campus. As leader of SPME, Anna co-sponsored an Israel-Palestinian debate attended by over 200 people. She continued her work with Israel on campus and was hired by Hillel and the Jewish Community Relations Council as the Israel intern. As a talented artist, Anna sold caricatures of students at Hillel events for a small fee, which she donated to the Israel Emergency Campaign.
Hebrew University student Daniel Jonathan Hoffman of Givataim, Israel.
"Daniel has opened Hillel's door to hundreds of students in a magical and welcoming manner. He brings a breadth of knowledge, perspective and willingness to grow and learn which others emulate," said Esther Abramowitz, Hillel's associate director of Hillels in Israel and the Former Soviet Union.
Daniel's involvement with Hillel has led to the participation of many other students who were not otherwise involved with the organization. He has been able to bridge many communities together into one. He took leadership of a student group that was about to fold, and made it into one of the largest and most active groups at Hillel. Daniel was also selected as one of Hebrew University's student delegates to Moscow to lead a Passover Seder, visit the elderly and celebrate Jewish life.
The George Washington University student Jonah Zinn of Worcester, MA.
"Jonah was the primary student 'change agent' who sparked what has been a remarkable renaissance of Jewish life at GW," said Simon Amiel, executive director of Hillel at The George Washington University. "He is fully unique in his ability to comprehend the complexities of community development, purposeful programming and evaluation."
As the publicity vice president, Jonah revolutionized Hillel and the way it does publicity on campus. He later took over the presidency of Hillel and infused it with a vision and a strategy for success. Jonah also spearheaded the effort to bring a Jewish fraternity to campus. By doing so, Jonah has engaged a new community of students into making the Jewish experience part of their college experience. Jonah is also the co-chair of Hillel's International Student Initiatives Committee, and is a member of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Board of Directors.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Ruthie Warshenbrot of Charlotte, NC.
"Ruthie is not only a born leader, but a sophisticated thinker when it comes to her ability to influence Jewish life on campus. She can be assigned any task with the full confidence that she will do it in the most excellent way," said Or Mars, executive director of North Carolina Hillel.
Ruthie excelled in her work as a Grinspoon Israel Advocacy intern. Through this internship, Ruthie sponsored an Israel teach-in, organized the annual Israel Fest, chaired a committee for a classical concert with an Israeli-Jewish cellist and Israeli-Arab pianist and helped bring "Caravan for Democracy" and "Israel at Heart" to campus. In addition, Ruthie created the "Bina Initiative" which was a 10-week discussion group for selected participants to discuss their relationship as Jews to Israel using a variety of educational media. Ruthie also served on the student board for North Carolina Hillel, was the president of Carolina Students for Israel, and was a member of the Holocaust Awareness Week planning committee and the engagement board.
University of Buenos Aires student Mauro Uriel Chojrin of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"Mauro has had a profound impact as a participant and as a contributor to the foundation, growth and coordination of Hillel Argentina," said Gabriel Trajtenberg, executive director of Hillel Argentina.
Mauro is a key leader in Hillel's intellectual club. He has also helped coordinate the Israel advocacy seminars and led Sabbath dinners and other events at Hillel Argentina. As a participant in Hillel Argentina's Conversation Club, he has organized chats and other social activities (like going to a movie) to help Hillel Argentina members improve their English speaking capabilities. Mauro is also helping put together a series of activities for Ethics Week, a regional Hillel event.
University of Rochester Eastman School of Music student Laura Puzio of Glenmont, NY.
"Seeking to replicate the strong Jewish community Laura saw on the main campus of the University of Rochester, Laura brought Judaism to her campus at the Eastman School of Music," said Rabbi Ari Israel, former director of Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges. "She is a well admired student leader whose inspiration is contagious."
Over the past two years, Laura has served on Hillel's leadership council, organized Shabbat and holiday programming and arranged for a weekly basic Judaism class. She also worked to secure kosher food in the dining halls and ensure that there is a public display of the Chanukah menorah in the dorms. As a voice and opera major, Laura used her talents to organize a Jewish student-faculty recital, which attracted over 350 community members.
Northern Arizona University student Sarah Winger of Chesterton, IN.
"Sarah single-handedly revived Hillel at Northern Arizona," said Hedy Jacobson, Hillel advisor at Northern Arizona University. "When she sees a need or an opportunity to make something better, Sarah takes the initiative."
Sarah created a plethora of marketing and publicity material for Hillel at NAU. Serving as president of the Hillel for over two years, Sarah participated in the university orientation sessions, created calendars and welcome letters for the new students, worked with leaders of other multicultural student groups to coordinate joint programs, and made sure that Hillel was being represented in the dorms by creating joint programs with the resident advisors. Sarah formed many partnerships with student groups and created many programs on campus.
Director of Hillel Kazan Valerie Lifshutz.
"Valerie is a vibrant, committed, responsible and passionate individual. She is deeply concerned with helping others and with assuring that her peers' needs are met," said Esther Abramowitz, Hillel's associate director of Hillels in Israel and the Former Soviet Union.
Valerie became involved with Hillel Kazan after returning from a trip to Israel, where she fell in love with Jewish life. She has been involved with Hillel for five years since then, and is the director of Hillel Kazan. As the director, Valerie has risen to many challenges to ensure that the students' needs are met. She led the Passover Project, bringing the Passover Seder to the elderly community while uniting Jewish college students from around the world. She also teaches Jewish and English literature at the Hillel.