Jewish Community Heros

Posted on August 18, 2009


When I first saw I was impressed that the UJC had finally created something online that was really interesting.  It was a great viral way to get people involved.  I even nominated someone who I have a lot of respect for.  He’s (Rabbi Yonah Bookstein) doing pretty well in the voting and I hope he wins.

Having watched the site religiously, my enthusiasm is starting to fade.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the concept of identifying and recognizing leaders or heros in the Jewish community is a fantastic idea.  In my community alone I can name dozens of people who have been serving the community for years and are heros even if never nominated.  Eugene Schlessinger, a survivor, became a wealthy man and has been raising funds for a variety of organizations for more than fifty years.  Barbara and Ray Alpert give to every cause in town.  Sandy Horowitz gives more than she should to Israel and children’s causes.  These people are volunteers who give of themselves simply because they have a calling to do so.

Other people have callings as well.  Rabbis.  Federation Executives.  Staffs of congregation and JCCs, and the hundreds of other organizations that help keep our communities functioning.  And I think they should all be moved into a separate category in the Hero’s voting.  (Federation employees and employees of other agencies are already excluded from the campaign.)

If the purpose of this Hero’s project is ultimately to showcase the work being done in local communities by “all of us” then it seems kind of unfair (?) or unjust (?) to have put the Eli Winkelmans of the world and their causes (Challah for Hunger) up against someone who is paid for their time and effort, no matter how much love and dedication they have to the Jewish community.

Maybe the Leaderboard is the real problem. Or the prize associated with being atop the leaderboard.  The leaderboard puts an emphasis on winning THE prize.  Winning THE prize means the fewer people who are nominated, the better.

If the emphasis was on nominating the MOST Heros, it would be a whole different contest.  If we were restricted to only one vote per Hero, then there is a chance people might actually read the profiles of some of the other nominees instead of simply following the link sent to them by their nominee’s friends or PR committee.

So in summary:  change the emphasis to nominating.  If there is to be a prize, break the categories in two (volunteers and professionals).  Maybe restrict voting to once per nominee per voter–or give a multiplier of votes to a person for every new Hero nomination they create (i.e. 2 votes per nomination.)  The concept is fantastic, and the execution is excellent.  I’m looking forward to a rules change in a future iteration.

Oh…and don’t forget to vote for me 🙂  Beach Hillel and Jewlicious Festival would be at the top of my list for the winnings.  But seriously…there are people who have done a lot more than I have…so go read their profiles and vote for them.  Or nominate someone right now.