Chabad on Campus International was presented with the prestigious Richard J.H. Gottheil Award, alongside Hillel International, from the Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) fraternity on Saturday night, at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles.
Rabbi Yossy Gordon, Executive Vice President of Chabad on Campus International, accepted the award on behalf of its 264 campus centers that serve more than 500 university and college campuses worldwide at a presentation ceremony during ZBT’s 2018 International Convention.
The Richard J.H. Gottheil Award is awarded to individuals or groups “that have advanced human understanding among all people”. Previous award recipients included the Southern Poverty Law Center, Doctors Without Borders, Jewish Federations of North America, Anti-Defamation League and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
According to ZBT, Chabad was selected because of its work to give Jewish students a space they belong. The award citation said:
“Chabad has been chosen for this award for the remarkable work that has been done in providing Jewish students on college and university campuses around the world a place to call home. A place where they feel safe. Chabad provides many opportunities for students to connect and strengthen their Jewish identity through the many social, educational and spiritual programs that are available. Students need to feel like they belong and are not judged for their beliefs and views. Chabad is a great example of providing programming that reflects tolerant, non-judgmental and open discussions.”
The award was presented by Norman Waas, International President of the Supreme Council of ZBT, at a large gala event.
In presenting the award to Rabbi Yossy Gordon, Mr. Waas said:
“Chabad on Campus hosts Shabbat dinner for brothers weekly, as well as inviting brothers to celebrate Jewish holidays together. The rabbi and his wife are always there for brothers with a home-cooked meal or some Jewish learning that can add meaning to their life. Throughout this year, many of our chapters have partnered with their Chabad to create meaningful and exciting programs together… Brothers from a variety of chapters and colonies participate in Chabad’s Sinai Scholars’ program as a way to enhance their connection to their Jewish identity. Zeta Beta Tau is so fortunate to have a partner in Chabad on Campus throughout North America.”
In his acceptance remarks, Rabbi Yossy Gordon said:
“Chabad’s approach to living is about intellectual awareness. To make a decision based on an understanding, a clarity, and to be able to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong and inspire others to make a decision based on thinking rather than emotionally reacting.
“A student once wrote to the founder of Chabad on Campus, the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, worried about if he should join a newly-founded academic program. “I don’t want to be a guinea pig,” he wrote. The Rebbe responded by returning the letter with the word ‘don’t’ crossed out and ‘guinea pig’ replaced with ‘pioneer’, so the line now read “I want to be a pioneer”. I believe very strongly that all of us in this room are pioneers. Each of us has an opportunity to lead and to provide the leadership that this world so desperately needs.”
Rabbi Mendy Fellig, director of Chabad at University of Miami, has been a central figure behind the growing bond between Chabad and ZBT. Over the past 18 years, he has increased his programming with ZBT to include Purim parties, Menorah lightings, Shabbat services, study sessions and more. More than a decade ago, Rabbi Fellig was made an honorary brother by ZBT’s Miami chapter.
Also joining the Convention were Rabbi Dovid and Goldie Tiechtel of Chabad at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, another couple who have been instrumental in creating a partnership between the two organizations. The Tiechtels and Fellig directed the ZBT Shabbat program at the convention which included meals, services, a ‘Stump the Rabbi’ session, and a Havdalah ceremony.
In his remarks to the participants, Rabbi Tiechtel spoke referenced the upcoming Tisha B’Av a time when Jews mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and pray for the redemption, and pointed out that Z.B.T. referred to the first letters in the Hebrew phrase “Zion Be-mishpat Tipadeh”, which translated means “Zion shall be redeemed with justice.”
Rabbi Tiechtel urged the brothers to “bring back the energy from the convention to your chapters and make next year the best ever.”
ZBT was founded in 1898 as the first Jewish campus fraternity and retains a strong link to its Jewish roots. Famous ZBT brothers include composer Leonard Bernstein, director Harold Ramis, Ambassador Ron Dermer and basketball player Tal Brody.
Chabad on Campus International is a leading Jewish campus organization with over 260 centers around the world sharing a message of Jewish community, tolerance, education, empowerment, kindness and enlightenment.