New York, More than 300 Jews from across the religious spectrum from Hasidic to secular gathered for the Third Annual Orthodox Jewish All Stars Awards red-carpet event this week at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, honoring those who proudly observe Jewish tradition while rising to the heights of their professions. Jew in the City, the organization dedicated to re-branding Orthodox Jews and Judaism through digital media, hosted the gala.
Among this year’s 10 Orthodox Jewish All Stars are Forbes magazine-ranked hedge fund manager and philanthropist Henry Swieca; BCBGeneration Creative Director Joyce Azria; and Columbia Law School Dean Emeritus David Schizer. This diverse and accomplished group also includes: Saul Blinkoff, Disney animator and film director; Professor Marta Weinstock-Rosin, 2014 Israel Prize winner in medicine who developed a drug to slow dementia caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; Yael Federbush, four-time Emmy-winning producer at “The Today Show”; Professor Barry Simon, 2012 Henri Poincaré prize winner for outstanding achievements in mathematical physics; Josh Meier, 4th place winner of the 2014 Intel Prize and named “One of the Eight Whiz Kids Who Are the Future of Medicine” by CNN; Estee Ackerman, table tennis phenom ranked sixth in the country in her division and a 2016 Olympic hopeful; and Mindy Pollak, a Montreal councilwoman who made history last fall as the first Hasidic woman ever to be elected to public office.
“When we created this award in 2012, we focused on shattering people’s misconceptions about Orthodox Jews and what they could accomplish professionally. Last year, when Chanukah historically intersected with Thanksgiving, we celebrated the religious freedoms that exist in the world today, which allow people of all faiths to excel in a variety of career paths.” said Allison Josephs, Jew in the City founder and director.
“This year, our message is our most crucial one yet: With anti-Semitic attacks on the rise across the globe, we are celebrating 10 individuals who proudly observe Jewish traditions as they’ve soared to the tops of their fields.”
Adds Josephs: “Increased anti-Semitism is a threat to all Jews and should concern all good people, but the reality is that those who look the most Jewish (i.e. the Orthodox Jewish community) are the most visible targets. These Orthodox Jewish All Stars serve as a poignant reminder that you can be a proud religious Jew and still be highly successful. No one should feel the need to hide his Judaism or observance. We must never cower in the face of anti-Semitism."
Past Orthodox Jewish All Stars have included former Senator Joe Lieberman, Top Ten Billboard Recording Artist Alex Clare, New York Times bestselling novelist, and Faye Kellerman who all appeared in the inaugural All Stars video in 2012. Last year’s list included Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Nobel Laureate Robert Aumann, and advertising agency 360i CEO, Sarah Hofstetter.
Many of this year's and previous year's All Stars and other prominent guests attended the awards party in downtown Manhattan Dec. 2, including nine of the latest winners. Notables included Ethan Zohn, a “Survivor Africa” winner, cancer survivor and founder of the organization “Grassroots Soccer”; the Hasidic girl-band “Bullet-Proof Stockings”; and a member of the YouTube sensations the Maccabeats.
Attendees enjoyed music, wine, and a dairy Chanukah-themed dinner including latke and donut bars. The event was emceed by Hasidic comic Mendy Pellin, a 2012 Orthodox Jewish All Star who the New York Times called “Stephen Colbert with a beard and a black hat.” A short film featuring several of the All Stars and how they’ve balanced career and observance premiered at the gala as well.
The Complete List of 2014 Orthodox Jewish All Stars:
Business and Industry:
Joyce Azria, Henry Swieca
Law and Government:
Mindy Pollack, David Schizer
Sports and Entertainment:
Estee Ackerman, Saul Blinkoff, Yael Federbush
Science and Medicine:
Josh Meier, Barry Simon, Marta Weinstock-Rosin