Penn Rabbi Wins Hillel Award

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Rabbi Mike Uram

Rabbi Mike Uram, executive director and campus rabbi at Hillel of the University of Pennsylvania, will be honored June 5 at Hillel International’s annual gala in New York.

The gala celebrates Jewish life on college campuses while raising money to support Hillel’s outreach to Jewish university students. The institution boasts 550 chapters at universities across North America, with another 56 abroad.

In addition to its ancillary branches, Hillel is known for sponsoring Birthright Israel, a popular travel program that offers Jewish young adults, ages 18 to 26, a free trip to Israel. Also, the organization champions community service and tzedakah initiatives.

Uram will receive its Edgar M. Bronfman Award, established in 2014 to reward a “Hillel professional who has served the movement with distinction and honor,” according to hillel.org.

Bronfman, who died in 2013, revitalized Hillel in the face of declining membership in the early 1990s. The award commemorates his legacy as a Jewish leader, including his storied tenure as president of the World Jewish Congress from 1981-2007.

During his presidency, Bronfman negotiated the immigration of Soviet Jews to Israel, compelled Swiss banks to remunerate Holocaust victims and exposed the Nazi affiliation of Austrian President Kurt Waldheim.

Hillel will honor Uram with the Bronfman Award because of his continued advocacy of Judaism among young adults, a critical demographic as an increasing number of adults drift from their Jewish roots, according to a 2013 Pew Research Study.

Uram won the National Jewish Book Award in 2016 for his seminal research on young Jewish outreach, titled Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations.

At Penn, where he has worked since 2005, Uram helped revive the Jewish Renaissance Project. The initiative engages students that do not regularly participate in Hillel though programs like spring break service trips and outings for Jewish Greek life members.

In a February interview with Penn News, Uram meditated on Hillel’s purpose. “The role of organizations is not just to provide services for members, the people who show up. It’s to go out and bring resources to people where they live, work and play,” he said.

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