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Heroes Among Us

Heroes Among Us

Who’s your Jewish hero? Someone who founds a yeshiva or works against Christian missionaries, who serves as an organ donor or as a volunteer at a cancer center, who starts an orphanage for African children or helps the homeless in the U.S.?

If you have a hero, you have a month to make a choice in United Jewish Communities’ first annual Jewish Community Hero Awards.

The online competition, which ends Oct. 8, will select — in the opinion of a panel of judges — the Jewish man or woman in North America who best demonstrates “the selflessness and courage of individuals who are bettering their communities through service and outreach.”

The individuals described above are among some scores of people nominated already.

The group includes both the prominent — rabbis and organizational leaders — and the unsung — people doing acts of chesed outside of the limelight.

“Too often the heroes among us, who do the most for our communities, go unnoticed,” says Adam Smolyar, senior vice-president of UJC, the umbrella group of Jewish federations in the United States and Canada. “The Jewish Community Heroes initiative aims to spotlight devoted individuals who work incredibly hard for others, whether their efforts affect five people or 5,000.”

Any person or group can nominate a hero — anyone at least 13 years old is eligible whose work “impacts a community in North America” — though an “open, online submission process.” The Web site is After screening, each nominee is posted online.
The five top vote-getters will be honored at UJC’s General Assembly in Washington Nov. 8-10. The winner will receive a $25,000 award.

In first place this week was Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, executive director of JconnectLA, a grassroots organization in Los Angeles.

UJC describes the heroes competition as “the largest-ever Jewish social-networking effort.”
“Jewish Community Heroes celebrates those in our communities who exemplify tikkun olam [repairing the world], one of the three core values of UJC,” says Lisa Kudish, national young leadership media co-vice chair. “Recognizing these inspiring individuals through the use of digital media, we hope to reach a new generation of heroes and motivate their unparalleled commitment to community service.”

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