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Hillel International awards President Morton Schapiro its 2019 Maimonides Award

Honor presented at the Hillel Global Leadership Symposium in New York

Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro received Hillel International’s 2019 Maimonides Award on May 21, recognizing him as a leader in higher education who has demonstrated exceptional support of Jewish students and Jewish life on campus.

At a Hillel International event in New York City, President Schapiro joined Northwestern Hillel board member Abigail Pogrebin, parent of a Northwestern student, and scholar Deborah Lipstadt in a conversation about how to confront the rise of anti-Semitism, said Northwestern Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon.

Morton Schapiro
Morton Schapiro

“President Schapiro is a shining exemplar of Hillel’s mission of inspiring students to make a meaningful and enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel,” said Simon.

“Morty is a leader among university presidents in caring about the experience of students, and he understands that a core role of the university is to help bright and passionate young people explore who they are, who they want to become, and how they can enrich their community and the world,” Simon said.

President Schapiro was moved by the honor. “I was humbled and grateful to receive the Maimonides Award,” he said. “I’ve always been driven by the belief that Jewish values can, in fact, help heal the world, and have tried to live a life that is true to my faith.” 

“Morty is a tremendously fitting recipient of this prestigious honor,” Simon said. “The event was filled with purple connections.” 

Hillel President and CEO (’81) Eric Fingerhut welcomed the crowd. President Schapiro was introduced by Northwestern parent Jonathan Kraft and Simon.

In his introductory remarks, Simon said President Schapiro embodies the Hillel mission, noting, “Morty talks — openly — about his commitment to Judaism, that it was an important part of his family and upbringing, and that it’s a crucial aspect of his identity.” 

Equally important is what President Schapiro stands for, Simon said, explaining, “A few years ago, the concept of ‘safe spaces’ on campus generated a bit of controversy. Morty stepped into the arena, and he has become a strong public advocate for physical spaces on campus that serve as a safe haven for students to connect with others with whom they share similar cultures and backgrounds.

“Morty understood and made clear that the most effective safe space is, like Hillel, also a brave space, one that instills in students the courage to explore what it means to be Jewish and human, to be Jewish and American, to have a relationship with Israel, and to grapple with controversial topics on campus and in the world,” he said. 

The Hillel announcement also noted that the award Morty received “is named for the sage Maimonides, whose teachings on tzedakah (charitable contributions) have inspired generations to make charitable giving a core value of their Jewish identity and a bedrock principle of creating a thriving community.”