More than 450 gathered at the new Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center in City Springs for Campus Top Talent 2019 to support Hillel’s work on campuses around Georgia. Also impressive was that $577,000 was raised in conjunction with the event.
“Fifteen years of growing funding in Atlanta has enabled Hillel’s leadership to establish a firm platform of operation that fosters vibrant Jewish life on campus and cultivates the skills for today’s campus leaders, who will be the leaders in our communities tomorrow,” said event co-chair Steve Oppenheimer.
For the show, five finalists performed in an exciting live competition. This year’s acts came from Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University and UGA. They performed for a panel of industry judges: Joe Alterman, Jen MacQueen, Eric Mendenhall, and Nick Arapoglou.
Morgan Rossi, an aerial silk artist and contortionist was crowned Campus Top talent and received $5,000. An audience favorite was Emory freshman, Panamanian Sofia Cohen, who had opera training in Italy and sang a poignant “Yerushaliyim” (Jerusalem).
The upbeat and energetic emcee, Hillel board member Mark Silberstein, jogged around the stage in black sneakers and was a lively, cohesive addition to the program. He related that “Hillel puts students on the path forward.”
This year’s Billi and Bernie Marcus Visionary Award went to Lindy and Norman Radow. Unfortunately, Norman was recovering from back surgery and was available only by remote video. Lindy recognized his absence by singing “Close to You” (an old Carpenters song) to an anonymous man wearing a mask of Norman. He got the biggest audience reaction by lamenting, “Percoset [pain medication] makes my day.”
Another video showed the Radows opening their home for Shabbat dinners to students, their involvement in AIPAC and pro-Israel affairs, and seeing the potential for Hillel and Jewish life at Kennesaw State University.
The “ham award” – excuse the expression – went to Rabbi Shalom Lewis from the Radows’ synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim. He “put over” a lengthy, hard-to-believe but possible saga about Lindy Radow’s relationship with very famous people. We almost fell for it – until it included the Pope.
Rabbi Russ Shulkes, Hillels of Georgia executive director, explained that the signs with Hebrew phrases floating from the stage ceiling represented the five pillars of Hillel: community outreach, Zionism, leadership, religious life, and social activism (plus tzedakah).
University of Georgia Hillel Director Roey Shoshan said earlier in the evening he was proud to have returned from the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference with top honors.
“This is my eight-year anniversary in Atlanta [having moved from Israel] and I couldn’t be happier than at Hillel. In Athens, we have made great changes in rebranding Hillel as a cool place to be. We have restructured our board and expanded participation, incorporated Greek life, and hosted a Shabbat dinner for 225. At AIPAC we claimed the 2019 Duke Rudman [Leadership] Award for the top campus.”
Author and mega businessman Michael Coles said being president of Hillels of Georgia is his most important job. “Over the past few years with the expansion of anti-Semitism on campuses, students get support from Hillel to not run away.”
In a follow-up interview, Oppenheimer elaborated, “News reports of Jewish students facing increased anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on virtually every campus are accurate. Hillel and its professional staff provide a safe space for students to gather, share experiences, become more educated about Judaism and Israel so they are resilient contributors on their campuses and proponents of Israel.
“Campus life today is not merely a reflection of society today, rather it can be an amplification of the discordant voices of our society. Who would think that on some campuses student government candidates are forced by pro-BDS, anti-Israel groups to declare if they are pro- or anti-BDS when, in actuality, these student leaders are unfamiliar with the history, the complex political situation and likely couldn’t locate Israel on a world map?”
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Steve Oppenheimer
- Emory University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Kennesaw State University
- Joe Alterman
- Jen MacQueen
- Eric Mendenhall
- Nick Arapoglou
- Morgan Rossi
- Sofia Cohen
- Mark Silberstein
- Rabbi Shalom Lewis
- congregation etz chaim
- Rabbi Russ Shulkes
- Hillels of Georgia
- Roey Shoshan
- Michael Coles
- Rabbi Daniel Dorsch
- Lynn Oves
- Dave Cohn
- Talent Show