Hillel honored six outstanding students with Philip and Susan Rudd Cohen Student Examplar of Excellence awards this week at Hillel's 2004 Charles Schusterman International Student Leaders Assembly. Coming from the United States, Brazil, Israel and the former Soviet Union, the winners were selected for their dedication, energy and enthusiasm for Jewish life on their campuses.
"These six students represent the bright future of the Jewish people worldwide," Hillel President Avraham Infeld said. "The leadership skills they have developed through Hillel will benefit their communities for years to come."
The six recipients are:
Corey Helfand, St. Louis Hillel at Washington University
Corey served as education chair of Washington University in Solidarity with Israel and participated in AIPAC's CORE program. He has helped first-year Jewish students adjust to life on campus as a fellow and chairperson of Hillel's Community Development Fellowship program. Corey has led Conservative High Holiday services for three years, and he serves as a student representative to the St. Louis Hillel Board of Directors. He also cofounded a weekly Hillel publication called "The Schmooze."
Shani Karni, Hillel at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Shani develops programs about social justice (tzedek), Israeli culture and Jewish traditions to share with her peers at Hillel. She allows students to see the beauty of Judaism and brought her own customs to the whole student body. She introduced Israeli films and excited many new students about Jewish life.
Fabio Messer, Hillel Rio, Rio de Janeiro
Fabio has been a presence at Hillel Rio since its beginnings in 2002, raising money for a building, scouting locations and developing a budget. Now he uses his business sense as the volunteer coordinator of the Business Club. Fabio encourages his peers to network by inviting lawyers, economists and other professionals to talk about their work, and he is developing a career center to help students find jobs and internships. No stranger to tikkum olam, he also participates in Tzedek Hillel activities.
Biana Shilshtut, North Dakota State University Hillel
A student leader at Hillel in her hometown of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Biana arrived in Fargo to attend graduate school at North Dakota State University and thought she was the only Jew on campus. With help from Hillel's Soref Initiative for Emerging Campuses, Biana sent a broadcast e-mail to all students and faculty at the university wishing them a happy Rosh Hashanah and inviting them to join her for a holiday meal. To her pleasant surprise, 14 people responded, and a new Hillel was born. Biana organizes Shabbat dinners, havdalah and holiday programs and Passover seders, and she encourages her Jewish peers to celebrate their heritage.
Zehava Vitberg, University of Delaware Hillel Foundation
As outreach chair, Zehava energized Hillel at the University of Delaware, greeting new students at Shabbat services and programs and regularly bringing in freshmen to participate in Hillel activities. Impressed by her welcoming spirit, the Hillel staff entrusted her to co-chair Freshman Fest, a three-day pre-orientation program for Jewish freshmen. The program was overwhelmingly successful with almost 60 participants, most of whom have remained active in Hillel. Zehava became Hillel president soon afterward and continues working with the student board to help it thrive.
Andrew Woods, Hillel at the College of Charleston
Andrew has grown through Hillel and has helped to Hillel to grow. After participating in a regional Hillel Kallah, he joined discussions about Jewish issues and was named the events chair when he became a member of the student board his second year on campus. Andrew expanded programming to include Shabbat dinners every month and High Holiday services, and he partnered with a local synagogue to plan a Passover seder.