Rabbi Michael Uram, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Hillel, was named to the “Forward 50,” the publication’s annual listing of the most influential people in American Jewish life.
The 36-year-old was one of just two people mentioned in the education category. The newspaper cited Uram’s leadership during a controversy back in February when Penn hosted the first boycott, divestment and sanctions conference. Organizers of that event sought to portray Israel as an apartheid state.
Uram felt that trying to have the program canceled, or organizing a confrontational protest or counter-conference, would only have been counterproductive. Instead, he hoped to help orchestrate a robust conversation about Israel on campus.
“Though it had its early detractors, Uram’s quiet advocacy is now held up as an example of the right type of Israel activism — student run, and positive in tone,” the Forward stated.
Uram said that while he’s honored and his parents and in-laws are thrilled, he thinks that Penn students were the real heroes of the story. They helped plan more than 50 Shabbat dinners where participants could discuss Israel freely. They also organized fundraisers and helped bring Alan Dershowitz to campus, with the help of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Wynnewood native Alison Klayman was named to the list under the culture category. The 28-year-old graduate of Akiba Hebrew Academy has spent much of her post-college career in China. She has garned international reknown for her documentary film about Ai Weiwei, the Chinese dissident artist.