About The Rabbi Michael M. Szenes Humanitarian Award
The Rabbi Michael Szenes Humanitarian Award was established in 2010 to recognize leaders in our community who exemplify the characteristics of a true humanitarian…those individuals who understand the struggles of humankind, and through their own desires and abilities strive to make the lives of others, their community and the world a better place.
Rabbi Michael Szenes served as spiritual leader of Congregation Gates of Heaven for 25 years, retiring in 1984.A survivor of the Holocaust, Rabbi Szenes earned his Ph.D. in Semitic Studies from the University of Budapest and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of Hungary in 1942. He wasa dedicated leader who fought for what he believed was right, regardless of its popularity, witha passion for causes of justice, civil rights and peace. Rabbi Szenes was active in numerous interfaith and civic organizations, and served on the White House Conference of Children and Youth. He was honored with the Patroon Award, the highest award presented by the City of Schenectady in recognition of his unselfish contribution to the community and for going beyond the routine call of duty.
The 2014 Rabbi Michael M. Szenes Humanitarian Award Recipient
Stephen M. Berk is the Henry and Sally Schaffer Professor of Holocaust and Jewish Studies in the History department at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He is the former Chair of the Department of History, Director of the Program in Russian and Eastern European Studies and Faculty Advisor to the Hillel organization at Union College. Professor Berk is a well-‐known author, consultant and lecturer. He is frequently consulted by newspaper reporters and by television and radio stations including the BBC. Professor Berk has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the prestigious Holocaust Memorial Award from the Holocaust Survivors and Friends Education Center. In 2010, Professor Berk was designated an Israel Hero for his defense and advocacy of the State of Israel by Jewish Educational Resources of NY (JERNY).
About The Paul S. Swartz Social Justice Award
Newly established in 2014, the Paul S. Swartz Social Justice Award honors person(s) or organization(s) within Congregation Gates of Heaven (CGOH) who are or have been committed to the obligation of “Tsedek, tsedek Tirdof” the mitzvah of Pursuing Justice. Paul S. Swartz was a member of CGOH for more than 50 years. Paul wasa long time board member having served as President on the Board of Trustees. In 1961, the Temple’s Social Action Committee was established with Paul serving as its first Chairman. Paul was also instrumental in establishing the Temple Community Service Corps (TCSC). TCSC is a program that allows local youth to work in social service agencies within Schenectady County. The teens learn about social justice and at the same time provide assistance to local organizations.
The 2014 Paul S. Swartz Social Justice Award Recipients
Devoted congregants of CGOH, Ted and Raquel (z’’l) Vinick are the first recipients of the Paul S. Swartz Social Justice Award. Asa team, Ted and Raquel worked tirelessly as mentors at Schenectady’s Pleasant Valley Elementary School. The Vinicks played a tremendous role in helping numerous Russian refugees relocate and settle in the Schenectady area. Ted is presently Secretary of the Temple’s Social Action Committee and both have been active committee members for decades