Horvitz Award Presented at Camp JORI


Shai Afsai, librarian, the winner

Elder Ovadiah Agbai, left, Elder Pinchas Ogbukaa, center, and Shai Afsai at Camp JORI on Worden’s Pond /Shai AfsaiOn Sunday, Sept. 22, Shai Afsai, master’s degree candidate in library and information studies at the University of Rhode Island, received the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association’s Horvitz Award.  He won a $500 prize and his article will be published in the 2013 issue of “Rhode Island Jewish Historical Notes” (see related story in the Sept. 27 issue of The Jewish Voice, “Rhode Island’s first Reform synagogue and the Masonic fraternity”).

Established in memory of Eleanor Horvitz, the Association’s longtime archivist, librarian and writer, the annual competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students writing on any facet of Rhode Island Jewish history.  Past winners, including Jews and non-Jews, have been students at Brown, Harvard, Tufts, Wellesley and URI.  The deadline for submissions in 2014 will be July 1.

Afsai’s topic was “Jews and Freemasons in Providence: Temple Beth-El and Redwood Lodge.”  He has published articles in several newspapers and journals, including: The Providence Journal, The Jerusalem Post, Midstream, Rhode Island History and The Jewish Voice.  Afsai, who earned his bachelor’s degree and his master’s in teaching at URI, is a librarian in the Providence school system.

The Horvitz Award was presented on a gorgeous fall afternoon at the Jewish Historical Association’s meeting at Camp JORI.  Many Association members, first-time visitors to the camp’s Worden’s Pond site, were amazed by the spectacular, 10-year-old campus.

Several speakers gave deeply moving accounts of their involvement with JORI.  Michael Schuster, a former camper, counselor and board president, reviewed the early decades – since 1937 – when the camp was operated by the Jewish Orphanage of Rhode Island (JORI) in Narrangansett.  Hilton Weiss, another former camper, profiled the idealistic vision of his parents, Leo and Sophie Weiss, who were directors from the mid-1940s until they retired in 1971.  Alice Eichenbaum described the friendship, fun and food appreciated by her late husband Ray, who attended JORI as a teenage Holocaust survivor.  Rob Stolzman, the camp’s current board president, and Ronni Guttin, the camp’s seasoned director, also offered inspiring messages.

Historical Association members were pleased to see several wooden plaques, with the names of JORI founders and donors, displayed near the 500-seat dining hall.

George M. Goodwin (ggoodwin2@cox.net) is a past president of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association and the editor of its journal, “The Notes.”