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Today is the 25th of Iyar, 5783

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In this edition: Last week the AJC's Simon Lazarus Jr. Awards honored high school juniors and seniors who have contributed in significant ways to their community. 

Also below:  The JCRC and Cafe Alma present a screening of the documentary The Janes on May 22.

Valley Temple will be hosting an Interfaith Couples Shabbaton on May 19 and 20. 

Jewish Community night at the Reds is May 23, register here.

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AJC's Simon Lazarus Jr. Awards Honor High School Students' Public Service

AJC award winners, finalists, and judges.
(Credit: Julian Myles Photography)
By Sam Fisher

Student finalists, their families, and members of the Cincinnati chapter of the American Jewish Committee met on May 11 for the annual Simon Lazarus Jr. award ceremony. Held at Rockdale Temple, the awards are the culmination of an essay contest for high school students in the Cincinnati area.

One of this year's winners was Grace Santa, a senior at Cincinnati Christian Hills Academy, who participated in multiple service projects. 

“I love [public] service and helping my classmates figure out what they're good at – because that's what I do in my school, I help others use their gifts,” Santa said.  "[For one of my projects] I helped one girl get organized to make a group so she could bring dogs to school as support animals.”

The awards are named for a former leader of the American Jewish Committee, Simon Lazarus Jr. He led the Cincinnati regional AJC as president from 1951-53. Lazarus was involved with the precursor to the Cincinnati Human relations commission, and was a member of the AJC national Board of Governors.

The essay contest was held in his memory, with students prompted to write about their volunteer and service work to make their communities better.

“This year we had 28 students apply from 16 different schools,” said Justin Kirschner, regional director of the AJC. 

Over the years many local highschools have nominated students for the award. The winners received  $750 and the runners up received $350. Along with the prize money each year the students are given a book chosen by the AJC committee to help them on their journey as young adults.

This year they were given a copy of "A Short Guide to a Happy Life" by Anna Quindlen. Part of the AJC’s mission is to fight antisemitism so each school receives a copy of the AJC publication "Translate Hate Glossary," a guide to the many forms antisemitism takes and how to counter them.

The essays are read by a committee made up of members of the Jewish community who then narrow down the list of applicants to 10 juniors and seniors, and send those essays to 5 judges who choose who the winners will be. 

“Students who are chosen demonstrate a commitment to community service and repairing the world,” Kirschner said. Though the winners span Jews and non-Jews, they show the importance of “the Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charitable giving), and gemilut  hasadim (acts of lovingkindness).” 

“I was not prepared to be so blown away by the applicants,” Marilyn Zayas, one of the judges, said. “And to recognize that all of these applicants are light years ahead of where I was [at their age.]” 

John Brownlee, another judge, was equally impressed with the quality of the candidates. “It was a reminder that there are about a million different ways that you can do public service oriented work,” he said. “It was stunning to see the broad diversity of ways to put good energy into the world.”

The awards serve not only as a way to honor students but to also a way to bolster community relations by creating positive connections between the Jewish community and the non-Jewish community in Cincinnati. 

“We have a bigger mission and a purpose here, [and that is] to eradicate extremism,” Kirschner said. “And we know that antisemitism forms the core of so many extremist ideologies.” 
Amid the rise of antisemitic incidents over the past few years, Kirschner said the AJC’s "Translate Hate Glossary" is being put to good use by schools, even those with little connection to the Jewish community. 

“Late last year, we received an email from a guidance counselor at a Christian private school, telling us how much they learned from that glossary,” Kirschner said.

“They can pass it around to school administration and teachers, just to have it as a resource, so that they can use it in tabletop discussions,” he said. “To hear that from a non-Jewish community, especially in a school space, is heartening.”
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More news:

Join the JCRC and Cafe Alma for a screening of the documentary The Janes on May 22, and learn about how to advocate for women's reproductive rights. The Janes tells the story of an underground group of women who arranged for safe abortions for women in Chicago.

Valley Temple, in a partnership with Modern Jewish Couples, is hosting a Shabbaton to help bring interfaith couples together. The event will take place on Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20.

The event includes shabbat dinner and services, along with opportunities to meet other couples and explore identity, partnership and how Judaism can be a meaningful part of a couple's life. 

“This is another way for us to help to teach people that their Judaism can be a vibrant and exciting part of their lives, and that we are here to help them figure out how,” Rabbi Austin Zoot said.
The event and the experience is designed “for committed partners excited to celebrate Shabbat, explore Judaism, and invest in your relationship.” The Shabbaton is free, and you can register for the event here

Join the Jewish Community for a night under the lights, at Jewish Community night with the Reds on May 23.
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