By COLlive reporters
Orthodox Jewish boxing champion and a Chabad follower Dmitriy Salita has been chosen as one of the 5 finalists in the second Jewish Community Heroes contest of the Jewish Federations of North America.
A panel of judges chose the finalists from 20 semi-finalists who were voted in a few weeks ago by over 300,000 online voters out of more than 200 nominees, according to the contest website.
Other finalists include Jay Feinberg – finding donors for a bone marrow registry, Zvi Gluck, “dedicating his life to helping those most in need,” Stephen Kutner, sending healthcare professionals to communities in crisis, and Mordechai Tokarsky who teaches 18-30 year-olds.
The panel of 17 judges included Lubavitchers Levi Shemtov, director of the Friendship Circle, Devorah Benjamin of KSCVK of Crown Heights and Bill Rudolph, President of the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh.
While listed as a judge, the contest website states that Rudolph “abstained from casting his 2010 judge ballots due to the presence among our semifinalists of his daughter-in-law, Rivkee Rudolph.”
She was one of the 5 Lubavitchers who were voted to be in the top 20 semi-finals: Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel – Champaign, Illinois, Rabbi Yisroel Bernath – Montreal, Quebec, Rabbi Dovid Goldstein – Houston, Texas, Salita and Rudolph.
Also in the semi-finals was Pinny Lipshutz, editor of the Yated weekly, who has taken a lead role in helping Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin by raising awareness and funds.
“Our judges had a tough job,” said Andy Neusner, a coordinator of the online contest. “The 20 Heroes who made it into the semifinals are all exceptional members of the Jewish community who make Tikkun Olam a part of their daily lives.”
The 2010 Jewish Community Hero of the Year will be announced at the JFNA General Assembly in New Orleans from November 7-9.
The results were received with mixed feelings among Lubavitchers – known for being media savvy, yet remaining distinctly different among the secular-controlled Jewish establishment in the U.S. and elsewhere.
“It’s federation, so I’m not shocked,” Baruch, a young Crown Heights father whose parents are Shluchim, wrote to COLlive. “They have a discrimination and Chutzpah toward Chabad, in my humble opinion.”
But, a Shliach who participated in last year’s first Jewish Heroes contest and did not win, said understanding the dynamics of winning such a contest needed a more nuanced approach.
“Shlichus is the mission the Rebbe has entrusted us with to make the world a better place,” he tells COLlive.com, “but not everyone agrees that spiritual outreach and fighting assimilation is the highest calling for the Jewish people.
“That is why when running for such a contest – if you want to win – we need to offer Shluchim who are involved in more universal causes like Devora Benjamin’s Chosson and Kallah assistance and the Friendship Circle.
“We are never guaranteed that they will win, but they have more of a chance of finding the favor of the judges who, mostly, are not religion-focused. That’s why they voted in Salita,” he concluded.