On Sunday, May 20, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life at the University of Washington hosted “The Red Carpet Affair: A Showcase of Excellence,” an honorary dinner at the historic University Tower Hotel. The dinner included an Academy Awards–style presentation that highlighted several events during this past school year. In addition, a surprise tribute video was shown in honor of Rabbi Dan Bridge’s 13 years with Hillel.
“The Red Carpet Affair: A Showcase of Excellence” was modeled after the Academy Awards. Elisa Jaffe from KOMO 4’s Northwest Afternoon was the emcee for the event, and various students from Hillel announced the award recipients. There was even entertainment as Hillel’s own Hachi Pele took the stage singing a few of their favorite songs.
For the past 13 years, Rabbi Dan, as the students call him, has served as the executive director of Hillel at the University of Washington. He was honored for his tireless efforts and dedication to the students as well as the greater Seattle Jewish community. The tribute had an element of surprise, as the rabbi knew that there would be a tribute, but he did not know what to expect. When asked about the tribute, Bridge said, “I knew something was up, but I didn’t know what; they kept an amazing secret.” He continued, “so many people went to the trouble of putting it together…I had no idea!”
The tribute was a video of various people he knows, lives with, communicates with, and affects on a regular basis, sharing stories and taking the audience on a trip to a couple of Rabbi Dan’s favorite places.
In the awards section of the program, students and programs were held up as exemplars of excellence by their peers. As a registered student organization at the University of Washington, students are encouraged to develop and facilitate programming. This requires time and commitment, which can be hard to find in a busy student’s life. Those who received an award were both excited and surprised, as the audience did not know who would be commended before they were announced.
As Eileen Shelden, a member of the awards committee explained, “There’s so much wonderful programming at Hillel, but after hearing the students’ voice, it was clear who should receive awards.” The programs that received awards were as follows: Pizza in the Hut, a pizza dinner in the Sukkah during Sukkoth; Hillel’s annual Shabbat for A Lot, a Shabbat dinner for Hillel and the whole community; The Pacific Northwest Undergraduate Retreat, which is the fall convention for Hillels in the Northwest region at Camp Solomon Schechter; the monthly Shabbat Morning Minyan, which is actually a new Shabbat service at Hillel; and Gefilte Fish, a biquarterly conversation group that grapples with controversial issues.
The four students honored were: Danielle Fague, who ran programs throughout the year, such as Get Lei’d Shabbat and the Murder Mystery dinner; Sarena Hyman, who is involved with Hachi Pele; David Lukas, who is active with community service projects through Hillel; and Sarah Rebenstorf, who has run many programs with the Jewish Freshman Alliance.
Since the night of “The Red Carpet Affair: A Showcase of Excellence,” many students have expressed an interest in facilitating Hillel programs and being involved on the Executive Board and/or Leader’s Counsel. Renée Cohen, Hillel’s assistant director, said, “I think that this event tapped into students’ pre-existing desire to get involved and brought it to the surface.” By planning events, students can become involved with their Jewish community, allowing, as Serena Hyman put it, “lots of ways to get doses of Judaism.” She says, “I feel like I really belong in this kind of Jewish community… spiritually, educationally, and socially.”
If you missed the tribute to Rabbi Dan Bridge, you can view the video at www.Hilleluw.org.