What Are the Solomon Schechter Awards? Originally Published February 15-16, 2019.

Rabbi Stephen Steindel mentioned the Solomon Schechter Awards the other day, so we may thank him for this week’s quest for information.

Presented by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ), of which Congregation Beth Shalom is a member in the Central District, the Solomon Schechter Awards recognize extraordinary achievement by congregations in various aspects of congregational life.  Given every two years (in the odd years) at the USCJ convention, these awards call attention to programs and initiatives that shape an authentic and dynamic Judaism.  Named for Dr. Solomon Schechter, the founder of the USCJ (you may recall we spoke last week of his wife Mathilde Roth Schechter, who founded the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism), hundreds of congregations have received these awards since they began in 1949.

The USCJ describes itself as “a community of North American kehillot (Jewish communities inside and outside the walls of the synagogue) committed to a dynamic Judaism that is learned and passionate, authentic and pluralistic, joyful and accessible.  USCJ creates the spiritual, intellectual, and managerial network that empowers kehillot to fulfill their sacred mission and connects them with a common sense of community, shared mission and purpose.”  Of course, as our teens know, the USY is the youth arm of the USCJ, and BSUSY (Beth Shalom United Synagogue Youth) is a very busy and engaged arm.

The USCJ also offers the Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Award annually to recognize an emerging Jewish lay leader who is making a difference in advancing the values of an authentic and dynamic Judaism.  Created in 2014, this award honors those whose vision or ideas motivate and inspire engagement from others, and celebrates an individual of any age or in any career stage who demonstrates exceptional leadership through dynamism and creativity.  Shoshana Shoubin Cardin was a “tireless political activist, philanthropist, and champion of women’s rights, racial equality, and the Jewish cause since the early 1960s.”  She was known for speaking out on behalf of justice and believed strongly in the power of individuals to effect change, and in leaders who confidently pursue their goals and, in doing so, engage and inspire others.