By COLlive reporter
Whatever the outcome of online voting for the Jewish Community Heroes contest, the final say is left for an independent judging panel.
And so far there are two Lubavitchers included in that exclusive group chosen by UJC / The Jewish Federations of North America, COLlive was told.
The first is Billy Rudolph, President of Yeshiva Schools and Lubavitch Center of Pittsburgh and Chairman of United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh.
Joining him is Dmitri Salita, Ukrainian-born undefeated boxer who is a regular at Chabad of Flatbush and was recently married in Crown Heights.
Andy Neusner, UJC’s web content manager, told COLlive he was annoyed to hear of claims in Chabad circles of an attempt to undermine Lubavitch nominees, which he denied.
“We had 4 weeks left and the top 10 group was stable,” he said in reference to the last-minute decision to choose from the top 20 list instead of the top 10.
“If we wanted to disenfranchise the great Chabad nominees – there can be other ways,” Neusner added, acknowledging their past resentment to Lubavitch among Federation leaders.
Currently (Sep. 22 6:01PM EST) there are 11 Lubavitch rabbis and activists in the top 20 list. Since COLlive first reported about the first Lubavitch nominee (Texas Shliach Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff) the list quickly grew to tens of nominations.
Neusner, a former writer with the JTA news agency who has ties with Chabad spokesman Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, says he was only moderately surprised.
“I an eminently aware how web savvy Chabad communities are and kind of knew Chabad would be leading in the list,” Neusner said.
Voting for the top 20 semi-finalists ends Thursday, October 8, 11:59PM EST. From then, a panel of judges selects the five finalists.
The winner will receive $25,000 and a speaking slot at the 2009 UJC General Assembly in Washington, DC.