Avi Chai Selects Chabad-Lubavitch Representative for Fellowship Award

Avi Chai Selects Chabad-Lubavitch Representative for Fellowship Award

Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, Avi Chai Fellow


May 12, 2008

(lubavitch.com) Among the first recipients selected for the Avi Chai Fellowships formally disclosed on Monday at a press conference, is a Chabad-Lubavitch representative, Rabbi Menachem Schmidt, of Philadelphia.

Rabbi Schmidt is one of six winners chosen on the basis of their promising creative and entrepreneurial Jewish leadership in the North American Jewish community. 

The recipients—four individuals and a team of two, will receive $75,000 each—the largest cash award, according to the Foundation—in the first of three award cycles that will allocate $1.5 million over the next three years.

Highly respected in the Philadelphia Jewish community, Rabbi Schmidt is involved in numerous innovative programs and projects that contribute to an enriched Jewish life experience of a wide reach of Jewish people. Executive Director of Chabad at the University of Pennsylvania, Rabbi Schmidt cofounded the Jewish Relief Agency which regularly delivers food packages to 2500 needy families in Philadelphia through the efforts of 700 local volunteers, spanning the entire spectrum of ethnic, religious and social backgrounds.

Initially, says Rabbi Schmidt, he was tapped for the award for the First Friday Shabbos program that he introduced to Center City. But in his meetings with Avi Chai officials, he introduced them to the mentoring program for college students which he launched and developed under the Steinhardt Neubauer Jewish Heritage Programs (JHP), a project of the Cayne Heritage Foundation. JHP was a pioneer in peer to peer campus outreach and mentoring of college students by community professionals. That program has now expanded to ten campuses.

Schmidt helped create the national network of Chabad Houses on campus. This eventually became the Chabad on Campus International Foundation, which has been in the forefront of building over 100 Chabad Houses on campuses nationally and more internationally. Rabbi Schmidt presently serves as its president.

Rabbi Schmidt was instrumental in founding many of the Chabad Lubavitch centers in the Delaware Valley and other institutions in the Philadelphia area including co-founding the Jewish Relief Agency and  . Rabbi Schmidt is Chairman of the Chabad on Campus Committee, which oversees close to 100 Chabad centers on campus in the U.S. and Canada.

In an interview with Lubavitch.com following the award announcements, Rabbi Schmidt said that the award was exciting for the possibilities it offers to expand these outreach activities.

"I hope we'll be able to utilize the award to make a real differnce," he said.

Rabbi Schmidt was one of more than 40 who were nominated for the Fellowship. A seven member committee narrowed the names down to the final five units.

Until now, Avi Chai in North America has mostly earmarked its funding to Jewish day schools and overnight summer camps. But directors of the Avi Chai Foundation expect that funding creative Jewish leaders will prove an effective way to address challenges facing the Jewish community. 

The Avi Chai foundation, endowed by the late Zalman Bernstein, is scheduled to cease making grants in 2020. Thought he Foundation’s work “will be far from completed” at that time, says Avi Chai’s Chairman, Arthur Fried, the Fellowship has been developed with an eye to the future, and the hopes that these emerging leaders "will carry the mission forward.”

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