End-of-year celebrations include welcomes and farewells


URI Hillel elects new leaders and recognizes others

URI Hillel board and staff members “get silly” for this photo at the June 3 annual meeting. Seated, from left, are Seth Finkle, Barbara Sokoloff, Mel Alperin, Henry Winkleman, Sam Shamoon and standing, from left, are Aaron Guttin, David Talan, Louis Kirschenbaum, Jhodi Redlich, Mark Ross, Susan Leach DeBlasio,                     Marty Waldman, Amy Weiss, Ron Freeman, Amy Olson and Martha Roberts. /Arlene WinklemanKINGSTON – Comings and goings – hellos and goodbyes – were evident at URI Hillel’s awards night and, several weeks later, its annual meeting.

At the annual meeting, held on June 3, longtime board member Mel Alperin was recognized for his contributions and was named an honorary board member. The review of URI Hillel’s many accomplishments during the past year prompted Alperin to say, “I feel like a kvelling (proud) grandfather!” He was moved almost to tears, he said, in witnessing Hillel’s progress.

Alperin has been a board member for the past 11 years – ever since then-Federation Executive Vice President Janet Engelhart specifically asked him to help strengthen URI Hillel’s viability. In slightly more than a decade, URI Hillel grew from a small, struggling, homeless organization to an award-winning agency with a permanent facility – The Norman M. Fain Hillel Center.

More recently, in the past 12 months, URI Hillel organized an alternative winter break when  students helped rebuild tornado-damaged houses in Joplin, Mo., and sponsored a Holocaust Remembrance Week, featuring a student-led vigil at which URI President David Dooley spoke. Student participation and leadership has continued to grow. Last August, URI Hillel was awarded the first Indispensible Campus Partner Award by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life for inspiring the university community as a campus leader on diversity, tolerance and multiculturalism.

Honoring Alperin at the June 3 meeting, Hillel President Susan Leach DeBlasio presented him with a package of URI Hillel regalia, noting that he eschewed plaques. On behalf of the board, students and staff, she praised Alperin for his years of service, supreme dedication and humility.

While transitioning to an honorary position, true to his reputation, Alperin committed to help URI Hillel in whatever fashion he could.

Leach DeBlasio was elected to another term as president; Ruth Jarrett, Ron Freeman, Barbara Sokoloff and Henry Winkleman were re-elected as officers. New board members include Jonathan Friesem, Jayne Richmond and Adam Roth.

Student leadership dinner

Although the annual student leadership dinner is always a time of transition – with graduating seniors moving on – this year’s May 1 dinner included one significantly different transition.

After four years as URI Hillel’s director of programming and engagement, which included bringing students to Israel on a Birthright trip and staffing alternative winter break trips to New Orleans, La., and Los Angeles, Calif., Joie Magnone is leaving to spend more time with her baby. Aaron Guttin will begin his position this August as URI Hillel’s new Jewish student life coordinator.

Hillel student board presidents for the upcoming school year will be Lily Nieto, a senior from Needham, Mass., and Sabrina Brotons, a senior from Bronx, N.Y.

Other student board members include Samantha Bucco of Wenham, Mass.; Lauren Cohen of Syosset, N.Y; Lauren Feldfogel of Suffern, N.Y.; Sage Daupinee of East Greenwich; Hannah Kaplan of Ocean, N.J.; Ariel Marcus of Northport, N.Y.; Ben Nachtigal of West Hartford, Conn.; Alysa Redlich of Cumberland; Shayna Sage of Newton, Mass.; Jennifer Widisky of Natick, Mass. and Jack Wilson of North Kingstown.

Marcus received the Lawrence Hopfenberg Award, given to a first-year student who has demonstrated outstanding participation and leadership at Hillel. She will serve as vice president of Shabbat and holiday programming on Hillel’s 2013-2014 student board.

Brotons received the B’nai B’rith Plantation Unit 5339 Award, for an outstanding student leader. The Bertram and Phyllis Brown Award, for the most active graduating senior, was awarded to Rebecca Kraut of Hauppague, N.Y., who was Hillel student board president in 2011-2012. The Pepi Silverstein Memorial Scholarship, which subsidizes a student to participate in a Jewish leadership conference or trip to Israel, was awarded to Natalie Weisfeld of Houston, Texas. Weisfeld, who just completed her first year at URI, participated in the June 2013 Birthright Hillel trip.

AMY OLSON (amyolson@mail.uri.edu) is executive director of URI Hillel.

URI HILLEL: 874-2740