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JCYF Distinguished Alumni Award

Each year, the JCYF Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes an alumnus/a who is making, or has made, an outstanding contribution to the Jewish Community on his/her campus or surrounding community.

Read on for information about previous winners!

2018 Award Winner:

Matthew Hampel

  • JCYF Class of 2015
  • Hometown: Yardley, PA
  • College: Penn State University
  • Award Money Given To: BKind at Penn State
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:

JCYF inspired me to become a leader in the Jewish community on campus.  I am the Secretary of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) which promotes Israel’s right to exist and its culture.  I sit on the Challah for Hunger executive board which bakes and sells challah to raise money for a local food bank. I am active in Hillel's THON, a year-long fundraising endeavor for pediatric cancer research and treatment.  Finally, I am starting BKind, an on-campus initiative from an Israeli company that encourages people to "pay it forward" with good deeds and spread random acts of kindness.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?

My participation in JCYF showed me that there are numerous ways to be a part of and take a leadership role within the Jewish community. It introduced me to the various ways of giving Tzedakah and encouraged me to take an initiative in Tikkun Olam. JCYF introduced me to philanthropic organizations which allowed me to immediately take a leadership role in organizations on campus.

Matthew's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:
JCYF is an incredibly valuable experience.  Prospective employers and people you meet in college and beyond are impressed by its merits.  It demonstrates initiative, and showcases essential skills such as planning, teamwork, leadership, and decision-making.

2017 Award Winner:
Stephanie Woloshin
  • JCYF Class of 2015
  • Hometown: Yardley, PA
  • College: Lynn University
  • Award Money Given To: Jewish Teen Funders Network
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:

I established Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Lynn University, the first pro-Israel group and student-led Zionist grass roots movement.  I am involved with ZOA, Chabad and am Vice President of Hillel at Lynn and board member of Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach County. I have spoken and written articles promoting Jewish causes on campus, and was privileged to attend the Anti-BDS summit at the U.N. Since starting college, I have been a Judaics and Religious School teacher at B'nai Israel Synagogue.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?
JCYF sparked my passion for Jewish agencies, philanthropy, learning and more specifically, an interest in Jewish programing and leadership. Through the program, I developed advocacy and analytical skills.  I was so inspired, that I assisted JCYF in their office last summer. My goal is to incorporate philanthropy as a component of all Jewish programing – my ideas are limitless.

Stephanie's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:

JCYF enables students to impart real tangible change and repair the world.  Value the opportunity to positively change the world through your contributions.  It is imperative that each one of us contributes to enriching our world.  

2016 Award Winner:
Stephanie Blitzer

  • JCYF Class of 2013
  • Hometown: East Windsor, NJ
  • College: American University
  • Award Money Given To: HIAS
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:

I started Challah for Hunger at American University with friends.  We bake challah together while discussing social issues affecting us and the homeless residents of Washington, DC. The challahs are sold and proceeds are given to Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, as well as a local DC organization which combats hunger. We look forward to expanding the chapter and increasing community awareness.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?

JCYF showed me how to be an active participant in the Jewish community beyond youth group programs.  Since graduating from the program, I wanted to apply what I learned about Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam to stay involved in the Jewish community.  JCYF fueled my enthusiasm to start Challah for Hunger on my campus.  This has allowed me to connect with more like-minded people with similar interests.

Stephanie's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:

Don't take JCYF for granted. There is so much to learn: using Maimonides' Ladder of Tzedakah to compare organizations, or gaining new a perspective of fund distribution. Don't wait until you graduate from JCYF to fully understand and appreciate the skills you  developed.  It is a privilege to participate in such an amazing organization.

2015 Award Winner:
Molly Fisch-Friedman

  • JCYF Class of 2012
  • Hometown: Princeton Junction, NJ
  • College: Princeton University
  • Award Money Given To: Greenwood House
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:
On campus, I am president of Koleinu, Princeton's Jewish a cappella group. As president, I make sure that the group continues to function, and I help promote our presence on and off campus. Additionally, I have spent the last 2 years on the board of Koach, the Conservative minyan at the Center for Jewish Life. I have also spent the last 2 summers working for two different Jewish community organizations. In the summer of 2013, I interned at Adath Israel Congregation through the JFCS's Avodah Internship program. This past summer, I was fortunate enough to be a Goldman Fellow for the American Jewish Committee. I teach both Hebrew and Judaica at my synagogue's Hebrew School. This experience has taught me a lot, and it has shown me how rewarding teaching can be.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?
Participating in JCYF gave me a greater sense of the importance of maintaining a connection to many Jewish communities. I learned about organizations near and far that are dedicated to maintaining the Jewish community and ensuring that Jews all over the world have resources. This showed me that each one of us has the capacity to contribute whether by giving our time, money, or ideas. Every piece of tzedakah we donate contributes to the betterment of the local and broader Jewish communities.

Molly's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:
You are doing incredibly important work by supporting the Jewish community across the world. The small actions you take here in New Jersey can impact people in your town, your state, your country, and your world. That's no small feat! Congratulations on everything you've been able to do so far, and if you keep it up, you'll be able to do amazing things in your future.

2014 Award Winner:
Daniel Fine

  • JCYF Class of 2011
  • Hometown: West Windsor, NJ
  • College: University of Pennsylvania
  • Award Money Given To: MEOR
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:
I'm an executive board member for Hillel at Penn and an active member on the board of Chabad. I have consistently signed off as a student leader in support of Israel on PIPAC's inaugural Israel support declaration over the last 3 years. Additionally, Chabad honored me last summer as one of America's Top 50 Jewish College Leaders. I had the good fortune of being hosted for a few days in Washington DC where we met with Israeli Chief Rabbi Metzger, had an incredible discussion with Elie Wiesel, and conversed with many political leaders. At the summit, I was asked to speak at the closing ceremony on behalf of all Jewish students to those leaders and rabbis from around the world, which was a truly humbling experience. I have also been a leader within and a speaker for the MEOR organization and Maimonides programs.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?
My work in JCYF initialized my interest in participating in events that are specifically connected to Judaism. It was my first Jewish organization leadership role, which has led to involvement in similar positions in larger organizations within my current Jewish communities.

Daniel's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:
Hey JCYF. Hope you're enjoying your experience thus far! To keep this short and sweet, have fun while participating at JCYF, but also think about and appreciate the values that it teaches you. It’s a program that goes beyond philanthropy and helps give you a greater connection to the Jewish community. From the causes and organizations that you support to the friends with whom you share the experience with, JCYF is a great and unique program. Learn from it. Appreciate it. And enjoy!

2013 Award Winner:
Alison Berg

  • JCYF Class of 2010
  • Hometown: Princeton Junction, NJ
  • College: University of Michigan
  • Award Money Given To: Erica Borsack's Triathalon Run for Team OneFamily
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:
Before coming to college, I was not only a member of JCYF, but also a member of the Youth Advisory Board and Gesher LeKesher. This past summer, I was an Avodah Intern with the Jewish Federation of PMB promoting Project Buy Israeli Goods. I visited Israel through Birthright and continue my relationship with the Israeli soldiers.

Community Activities:
I am involved in Challah for Hunger, a Hillel program where students bake and sell challah on campus each week and all proceeds go to fight world hunger. I traveled to Nicaragua on an Alternative Spring Break trip with American Jewish World Services to help build a school to teach sustainable agriculture and studied the Jewish law of giving. I also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and am Director of Philanthropy for my sorority — our national philanthropy being Breast Cancer Education and Awareness.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?
My involvement in JCYF not only taught me invaluable lessons such as communication, leadership, cooperation and compassion, but it led me to the goals that I now have for my future — a career in non-profit management. Also, it exposed me to the various kinds of need in the world and while I was able to give money through JCYF, it made me want to experience the need first hand. The program inspired me to take the trip to Nicaragua instead of going to Cancun with my friends, live outdoors and do physical labor all day.

Alison's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:
JCYF gives students the opportunity to gain a new perspective on the world and the Jewish guidelines on how to give. If they take advantage of this, they will be much better informed citizens and will be able to use their problem solving skills in every day life. The Jewish Community Youth Foundation was the best high school experience that I had and has lasted me long past graduation.

2012 Award Winner:
Samara Wright

  • JCYF Class of 2010
  • Hometown: Princeton, NJ
  • College: University of Pittsburgh
  • Award Money Given To: Hadassah Hospital
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:
This spring semester I will be studying abroad in Israel. I will be studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem at the Rothberg International School. I am really interested in learning about the Israeli culture and exploring the land of Israel! I am also interested in learning Hebrew, which I have already started doing at the University of Pittsburgh.

Community Activities:
At the University of Pittsburgh I am an active member of the club Challah for Hunger. This past fall semester I helped to start the Challah for Hunger chapter in Pittsburgh. In this club, we bake challot in the kitchen at the Hillel, sell the bread on campus and then donate the proceeds to non-profit charities in the area. I also participated in a club called Café Ivrit. In this club we practiced our Hebrew language skills and learned about the Israeli culture.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?
My participation in JCYF has influenced me profoundly. JCYF cultivated my awareness and responsibility as a Jewish young adult to give back to the community. JCYF has taught me the power of leadership skills. I use those leadership skills on the college campus daily.

Samara's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:
Take a moment to appreciate and self-reflect on the amazing skills learned from JCYF. Take advantage of the connections you make among your peers and the adults around you. Feel great about yourself because you are participating in such a great program and giving back to the community in a meaningful way.

2011 Award Winner:
Lily Pepper

  • JCYF Class of 2008
  • Hometown: Princeton Junction, NJ
  • College: Trinity College
  • Award Money Given To: Jewish National Fund
Involvement in the Jewish Community and Israel:
Hillel Board Member · Birthright/Taglit · NYU Tel Aviv · Tel Aviv Summer Internship Experience · Four semesters of Hebrew · Minor in Jewish Studies · Lived in Community Service Dorm on Campus · Internship with Elliot Berger of Merrill Lynch who advises private foundations with their philanthropic efforts.

Community Activities:
As a Hillel Board Member, I am involved in helping to plan and execute a variety of activities. As a member of the Community Service Dorm, I helped organize joint activities between the Habitat for Humanity Club, Community Service Dorm and the Trinity College Hillel.

How has JCYF influenced your current involvement in the Jewish community?
Being involved in JCYF helped me to understand the importance of giving back to the Jewish and other surrounding communities. At Trinity College I have been involved in a lot of community outreach programs. Additionally I have been involved with my family’s growing foundation.

Lily's Message to the Current JCYF Participants:
Learn about and donate to organizations in which you are interested and care about. Try to avoid choosing organizations that you think “look good,” in other words be discerning; though wherever you choose to contribute will be the right choice because you chose to contribute!