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2007 Tikkun Olam Award Presentation
ORT America Executive Committee Chair, Shelley Fagel, (r) and Tikkun Olam Award recipient U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The ORT America Tikkun Olam Award is presented annually to an individual who is committed to strengthening the Jewish community and repairing the world through good deeds.

The award was established by Women's American ORT to honor its dual concepts of tzedakah (the mitzvah of giving) and tikkun olam (repairing the world), underscoring the organization’s community advocacy efforts and mandate to teach the skills that create self-sufficiency. The tradition of bestowing this high award continues under the auspices of ORT America, established in 2007 from the merger of American ORT and Women’s American ORT.

Past recipients of this coveted award include: U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (2006); Joe Shapira (2005); Ed Asner (2004); Gail Greenspahn (2003); Claire and Bob Mazer (2002); Dr. Ervin ColtonDolores Wilkenfield (2000); and Beate and Serge Klarsfeld (1999). (2001);

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) - 2006 

 The first recipient of the Tikkun Olam Award when American ORT and Women’s American ORT merged in 2007, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the first Jewish woman ever elected from Florida to serve in the House of Representatives. Rep. Wasserman Schultz received this award for her commitment to education and the Jewish community and for establishing the month of May as national Jewish Heritage Month

As a young mother, Rep. Wasserman Schultz balances work and family with her responsibilities to her constituents and the American people. Her political skills and abilities so quickly impressed House leaders that she was appointed to the revered House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Wasserman Schultz represents the best of values in her advocacy of the ORT mission of teaching students the importance of their Jewish heritage while promoting the uniqueness of varying cultures and backgrounds. She is a magnificent role model to the ORT family for her continued passion and dedication on behalf of her constituents.

Joe Shapira (Beverly Hills, CA) - 2005

An ORT alumnus, Mr. Shapira was a perfect choice for the Tikkun Olam Award because he exemplifies the values ORT tries to impart in its students. Born in Israel, Shapira graduated from ORT Syngalowski in Tel Aviv in 1972. In founding JDate, he built an online dating empire of 12 million members in more than 200 countries worldwide. True to his ORT roots, Mr. Shapira has used his success for the benefit of the community at-large. He partnered with ORT America to sponsor Next Generation events around the country.

Ed Asner - 2004

The renowned actor and activist received the Tikkun Olam Award for his advocacy on behalf of human rights, world peace, environmental preservation and political freedom.  A frequent speaker on labor issues, Mr. Asner’s past honors include the Anne Frank Human Rights Award; The Eugene Debs Award; Organized Labor Publications Humanitarian Award; American Civil Liberties Union’s Worker’s Right’s Committee Award; and the National Emergency Civil Liberties Award.

Best known for his role as journalist Lou Grant on the television sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mr. Asner served as National President of the Screen Actors Guild for two terms. In 2002, he was honored by The Guild with the prestigious Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment, presented annually to an actor who fosters the highest ideals of the profession.

Gail Greenspahn (Highland Park, IL) - 2003

A true visionary and leader, dedicated over a quarter of a century in service to the Jewish community in the Greater Metropolitan Chicago area and worldwide, Ms. Greenspahn visited Israel more than a dozen times in solidarity and leadership. Embracing Women’s American ORT’s mission of education worldwide—and its important role in educating Israeli youth—she was a longtime supporter, having served as President of the Sandstone Chapter and as Chairman of the Board of the Northern Illinois Region. Deeply involved in the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, she served on the board of directors as chair of the “End of Year” Campaign and chair of the Leadership Development Committee. She was president of the Women's Board and had previously held several leadership positions on the Young Women’s Board. She also serves on the UJC Central Region Board. A current member of the Board of North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Ms. Greenspahn also has served on the Board of The Jewish Family Community Service.

Claire and Robert Mazer (Chicago, IL) - 2002

These longtime supporters were honored with the Tikkun Olam Award in recognition of their continued and outstanding philanthropic commitment to Women's American ORT (WAO) and to ORT. At the time of this presentation, Claire was an honorary vice president of WAO and had held positions, including a member of the organization’s national board of directors and co-chair of its Pacesetters, a designation for donors who gave $25,000 or more annually. She also served as secretary on the board of trustees of Zarem/Golde Technical Institute in Chicago.

In addition to their involvement in ORT, the Mazers are longtime supporters of the Jewish community through the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Claire also served on the board of the Women’s Division of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and as a trustee of the Jewish Women’s Foundation, which provides grants to improve the lives of Jewish women and girls. Robert Mazer serves on the board of directors of AIPAC as well as co-chairman of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, an organization with which he’s been involved for two decades.

The Mazers epitomized dedication to the ORT program for almost a half a century and their generosity and commitment—both of their time as well as donations—inspired leaders and members alike.

Dr. Ervin Colton (Milawukee, WI) - 2001

Exemplifying tikkun olam’s mitzvah of giving, Dr. Ervin Colton was awarded this coveted honor for establishing The Suzann Colton Memorial Endowment Fund, named after his late wife, a past president of Women’s American ORT’s (WOA) Milwaukee Region and an active member of the Milwaukee WAO Chapter, who was steadfast in her devotion to ORT’s mission of providing people with the educational and vocational skills necessary for them to become economically self-sufficient. The Suzann Colton Memorial Fund is a permanent endowment of $1 million which annually provides substantial funds for priority projects to assist underachieving and disadvantaged students with learning disabilities.  Dr. Colton, a retired chemist and former owner of CERAC, Inc., created this memorial fund as an appropriate testament and legacy to his wife’s passion and commitment to ORT’s worldwide programs, and in the hope that its students will help keep his wife’s memory alive for years to come.

Previously, Dr. Colton had contributed to the ORT Young Women’s 21st Century Fund, the Nathan Gould Memorial Fund and the ORT Braude International College. He and his daughter, Miriam, also direct the activities of the Ervin and Suzann Colton Charitable Foundation.

Dolores Wilkenfeld (Houston, TX) - 2000

The presentation of the Tikkun Olam Award to this esteemed public servant and speaker extraordinaire was an acknowledgement of her dedication to the public good in both Houston, TX and around the world. A longtime supporter of the Jewish community of Houston, Dolores Wilkenfeld was a past president of the St. Joseph Hospital Women’s Public Relations Council, co-founder of the Jewish Chaplaincy Program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and a founding member of TIE, the Texas-Israel Agriculture Program. 

On the national scene, Ms. Wilkenfeld served as secretary of the board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, vice chairman of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, a board member of the Governors of the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion and a past president of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods.  Retired from her position as president of the International Division of Therapists Unlimited, Ms. Wilkenfeld’s theatrical, television and radio productions delighted the Jewish community in Texas and her volunteer work helped train Bar and Bat Mitzvah students for public speaking for more than 30 years. A woman with an extraordinary commitment to the community, her progressive vision benefited everyone whose lives she touched.

Beate and Serge Klarsfeld - 1999 

The famed Nazi hunters were worthy recipients of the first Tikkun Olam Award, given in recognition of their decades of tracking down former Nazis and documenting French victims of the Holocaust. Born in Berlin on the eve of World War II (WWII), daughter of a German soldier and god-daughter of a Nazi official, Beate, a non-Jew, knew virtually nothing of her country’s role as perpetrator of the Holocaust. At 21, she moved to Paris to work and met her husband who would forever change her life. From Serge, an attorney and historian, Beate learned about the terrorizing reality of Nazism. Together, they relentlessly fought to bring Nazi officials, such as the “Butcher of Lyon,” Klaus Barbie, to justice.

Deeply committed to justice and tireless human rights advocates, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld’s efforts honor the lives of the six million Jews annihilated in Europe during WWII and exemplifies the true meaning of tikkun olam (repairing of the world).     

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