Atlanta Jewish Times (May 10, 2022)
On April 26, after two years of virtual celebrations, Hillels of Georgia welcomed 200 guests to the 2022 Hillel Heroes event at the Epicurean Hotel in Midtown Atlanta. The annual event celebrates the achievements of Hillels of Georgia and honors those who have made a difference in the lives of Jewish students on campus.
Sanford Orkin, who received the prestigious Billi and Bernie Marcus Visionary Award for his commitment to Hillel, accepted his award virtually. Orkin joined Dr. Catherine Lewis, faculty advisor to Hillel at Kennesaw State University; Josh Pastner, head coach of the Georgia Tech men’s basketball team and Hillel advocate; Dr. Raymond Schinazi, Emory University professor and Hillels of Georgia philanthropist; and Teddy Lambert, a student leader at Georgia Tech Hillel.
The reception began in the hotel’s flower-laden courtyard with food, cocktails and a musical performance by Chai Tunes, Emory University’s Jewish acapella group. The hotel’s developer and partner, Steve Selig, who, along with Jay Davis, was the event’s honorary cochair, told the Atlanta Jewish Times, “This has become a popular gathering place with all the indoor/outdoor space adjoining the office space and condos. We were going for the ‘wow’ factor!”
As the event moved indoors, video testimonials extolled Hillel as “a home away from home” and emphasized the importance of the new Hillel building in Athens at the University of Georgia. Hillels of Georgia CEO Elliot B. Karp spoke of his pride in raising $615,000 of the $660,000 goal for the capital campaign to date.
Ben Lefkowitz, a senior at Emory and a National Hillel Student Cabinet board member, said, “I have felt incredible support from this community. These past four years have been an amazing experience.” Emory Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Ilan Schwartz echoed the sentiment. “We are proud to celebrate Hillel’s opportunity to provide meaningful Jewish experiences for students across the state,” he said.
With journalist Greg Bluestein serving as master of ceremonies, each Hillel Hero received their award with a video introduction by community leaders including Norman Radow, Steve Oppenheimer and Jay Ganz. The acceptances were also in video format, but the recipients later went onstage to receive their awards.
Schinazi related how his family had escaped Egypt, rescued 100 Sefer Torot and his beloved “home” along the way at the Hillel in London.
“As a proud Jew, I love seeing Hillel, on the various campuses I have represented, influence the maturation of 18 to 23-year-olds,” said Pastner. “Hillel is pretty darn cool and not to be taken for granted.”
Hillel Hero Catherine Lewis has curated more than 40 exhibitions around the U.S., including a permanent one at The Temple. “From the moment I came to KSU, I was bathed in support,” she said. In his message, Radow had referred to her earlier as an eshet chayil, or a woman of valor in the Book of Proverbs.
Student winner Teddy Lambert is the Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) fellow and community manager at Georgia Tech, where he led the effort to develop affordable technology solutions to challenges faced by community members living with disabilities.
For the evening’s top award, honorary cochairs Steve Selig and Jay Davis extolled the depth of Orkin’s commitment to charity in multiple ways: Jewish day schools, cancer and tropical diseases research, the MJCC, as well as endowing the Rabbinical Chair at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, currently held by Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal, who spoke earlier in the evening.
“We have done a lot of big ‘asks,’ but this one, for seven figures [for the new facility in Athens] was a little scary. Turned out nothing was easier, as Sanford was so gracious,” Selig and Davis said.
Clad in a lively purple, Orkin, who sold Orkin Pest Control to Rollins, Inc. in 1964, spoke via video about his 66-year marriage to his late wife, Barbara. Since selling the company, Orkin has been a full-time investor, focusing on real estate and business.
“Way back then, I always felt that there was a void for Jewish people to mingle,” he said. “Hillel answers that question. … And I have always been inspired by Bernie Marcus, making this a true honor.” Orkin’s granddaughter, Julie Loftis, accepted the award in person on Orkin’s behalf.
“Papa, you are a great role model!” she said.
2022 Hillel Hero Honorees:
Sanford Orkin, real estate investor Catherine Lewis, faculty advisor to Hillel at Kennesaw State University Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Men’s Basketball head coach and Hillel advocate Raymond Schinazi, Emory University professor and Hillels of Georgia philanthropist Teddy Lambert, Georgia Tech Hillel student leader
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