On the evening of January 29, 2015 the Chabad Young Professionals will once again be putting on a historic event. Led by Rabbi Yosef and Rebbetzin Devorah Willhelm, two impactful community leaders, the organization has developed a stellar reputation since its inception for its fusion of “coolness” with Judaism. These two hardworking individuals seek to build a community and home for young Jews, as well as to inspire each person in their Judaism and growth. At last year’s Jewish People’s Choice Awards, held at the prominent Bohemian National Hall, the ceremony drew an enormous crowd and a slew of high profile individuals, including Lori Zaslow, formerly of Bravo TV’s Love Brokers and Shahar Azani, the consul for media affairs at the Consulate General of Israel.
The event is meant to highlight the work that young Jewish activists take part in and serves as a way of encouraging more young Jews to get engaged in activism on behalf of their communities and the state of Israel. This year there will be seven distinct categories for which nominees have been selected. They include the “Chabad’s Choice Award,” “Making a Difference Award,” “Business Person of the Year,” “Wedding of The Year,” “Lover of Israel”, “Open Heart, Open Home Award”, and lastly the “Doctor of the Year” Award.
The fact of the matter is young Jews who are proving themselves in the aforementioned categories deserve to be honored. Anti-Semitism is on the rise and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is intensifying. Even in Minnesota, we’ve seen recent bouts of anti-Semitism, like when Ilan Sinelnikov was blacklisted from the University’s Student Service Fee Committee. Understandably, many young Jews have begun questioning whether their activism on behalf of their community and the state of Israel is worth the potential social and professional costs they may have to endure. Unfortunately, Jewish organizations have not taken notice of the issue we are facing.
This community however, has noticed this issue. They have always made it their point to give thanks and acknowledge the benefit received from the tireless advocacy of young Jews worldwide. The Jewish community at large needs to stop taking their activism for granted and encourage the next generation to continue and flourish. The Jewish People’s Choice Awards is meant to completely change the paradigm. There’s no wonder that the event is nearly sold out and has had tickets purchased from individuals spanning over a dozen different states. Last year’s event left a lasting impact on the participants and in light of the unfortunate circumstances we as a community face, it is clear that this years’ will do even more, if that is even possible.
Jordan Mael is a financial advisor from Minnesota, currently living in NYC who is a proud member of the Chabad Young Professionals’ community.