Two Aish staff members have emerged as leading contenders in the 2011 Jewish Community Heroes campaign, sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America.
The top 10 vote getters advance to the second round and currently Aish has people in 9th place and 10th place.
Elliot Mathias – Director of Hasbara Fellowships, Aish's pro-Israel campus activism organization (currently in 9th place).
Elliot founded Hasbara Fellowships in 2001 in partnership with Aish, as a way to provide Jewish students with information, tools, materials and motivation to counteract the rampant anti-Israel activism on college campuses.
Ten years ago, Elliot recognized that the frontline of the PR battle for Israel was being waged on campuses and that Jewish students were not prepared to answer the difficult questions or combat anti-Israel rhetoric. To this end he founded Hasbara Fellowships, the premiere organization whose sole focus is training Jewish student leaders to be effective pro-Israel activists on campus. Following an intensive two-week training program in Israel on Mideast history and politics, students return to campus energized, confident and with stronger Jewish identities.
Elliot has an unparalleled way of connecting with Jewish college students, educating them, and inspiring them to not only become effective leaders in the pro-Israel movements, but moreover, to instill responsibility as members of the Jewish people to safeguard Israel's future.
Hasbara Fellowships has trained over 2,500 students, and made an enormous impact, bringing pro-Israel messages to 100 campuses across North America. As Elliot says, "Tomorrow's policymakers attend our universities today."
Sharon Shenker – Director of LA's Jewish Marriage Institute (currently in 10th place)
Sharon has a passion for giving. She gives to her students, her friends and her family in so many ways.
Sharon saw a need to make solid Torah-based relationship and marriage education available through out the community. In 2009, she established the Jewish Marriage Institute together with her husband (a rabbi at Aish-LA), with the goal of making marriage help available without hindrance of cost, availability or stigma.
Sharon's work with the JMI goes way beyond what is expected or could even be achieved by most people. She helps dozens of women every year prepare spiritually, physically and emotionally for their weddings and marriages, giving advice and counsel often late into the night.
Sharon has timeless patience for the women and couples that come to her for advice. Whether single, married, thinking about being married or even thinking about being single – Sharon cares for each person like they were a member of her own family.
Her women's-only classes inspire participants to improve the marriages and their families. Her insights are easy to understand, easy to accept, relevant to everyone – but take a lifetime to perfect!
Sharon is an inspirational wife and mother herself, constantly striving to improve her own character to be a better mom and wife.
About the Campaign
The Jewish Community Heroes campaign celebrates the selfless and courageous acts of everyday community heroes. The winner receives a $25,000 grant from the Jewish Federations of North America to be used as an investment in his/her community project. Additionally, the four remaining finalists will each receive a $1,000 grant, and the Federation Hero of the Year will receive a $5,000 grant.
In 2010, Aish's own Lori Palatnik, Executive Director of the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project, was one of the top-five vote-getters in the Jewish Community Heroes campaign.
Public voting ends on November 10. In December, a prominent panel of judges will select five finalists and the Jewish Community Hero of the Year.