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  • Hillels of Georgia

Hillel Annual Meeting Salutes Officers and Donors

Atlanta Jewish Times (5/31/22)

On May 26, Hillels of Georgia at the Marcus Hillel Center on Emory University’s campus hosted the organization’s annual meeting. The full itinerary included a slate of new officers, presented by outgoing Board Chair Stacey Fisher, and recognition of philanthropists Harry Maziar and Susan and Steve Caller.

Fisher spoke about what initially impelled her to join Hillel’s leadership, quoting Hillel’s famous dictum, “If not now, when?”

“As a mother of four college-aged kids, none of whom actually went to Georgia colleges, this calling to participate is greater than oneself,” she said.

Adam Strater, incoming Hillel Senior Jewish educator, delivered a d’var torah that connected the upcoming Shavuot holiday with the biblical Book of Ruth. “Both are about loving kindness and the rewards to those who teach,” he said. “Note that Ruth is among the most ‘human’ Books of the Bible, imparting kindness and relating Chesed as transformative in involving students.”

Hillels of Georgia represents more than 5,000 students on 10 campuses. A video highlighted popular Hillel activities such as the Etgar Civil Rights tour, Israel Fest, Daffodil Dash and multiple trips to Israel. Other initiatives include climate grants, programs about antisemitism, online programs and partnering with Jewish Family and Career Services (JF&CS) on mental health.

Alex Gandler, Israel’s Deputy Consul General to the Southeastern U.S., presented the Opher Aviran Award to Susan and Steven Caller, who had just flown in from Lexington, Ky. Aviran was acknowledged for his long-standing career as a diplomat, alongside previous award recipients Rabbi Peter Berg and Ken Stein.

Caller, a graduate of Georgia Tech, was recognized for his “commitment to Israel and the Jewish people worldwide,” such as his service on behalf of the Jewish Federation’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, AIPAC, his local Federation, JCC and synagogue. Some of the highlights of Caller’s career included escorting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, to Israel and their ardent support of the Hillel at Georgia Tech.

“Sixty years ago, there was no Yiddishkeit on the Tech campus, and plenty of behind-the-scenes-antisemitism,” Caller recalled. “I’m very enthusiastic about where we are now, but less so about UGA,” he said, ribbing Tech’s longtime rival.

Hillels of Georgia Interim CEO Wayne Keil presented three grants, sponsored by Sherry and Harry Maziar: the student grant went to Ben Lefkowitz, the professional grant to Elinoy Granot and the service grant to Norma Sanchez. Rising Emory senior Emma Rosenau spoke of her recent trip to the West Bank to meet with PLO representatives, then to Yad Vashem.

Linda Selig, vice chair of development, praised the leadership of her daughter, Stacey Fisher, referring to the past two years as “the best and worst of times [through which] Stacey guided [Hillel] to success, being calm, smart and forward-thinking.”

Hillel Nominating Committee Chair Mark Silberman spoke of his own journey to leadership, with former Hillel CEO Michael Coles playing a central role.

Senior Jewish educator Taylor Baruchel gave a stirring benediction, citing recent antisemitic trends on campus. “Israel matters, community matters … our work is not done,” she said. “Our students will return to us. Here they are heard and loved.”

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