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Passion and vision
Princeton rabbi wins prestigious award
Rabbi Julie Roth is one of the winners of the 2013 Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
By Keith Loria, Special Writer
Published on Friday, September 20, 2013 1:05 AM EDT

When Rabbi Julie Roth came to Princeton University in 2005 to assume the role of executive director of The Center for Jewish Life, she had a mission to bring innovative ideas to the position and make great change.

”I think I am known for my passion and vision,” Rabbi Roth says. “Princeton has grown tremendously and flourished in the years that I’ve been here. I’m a team builder, and offer a combination of organizational management and insight to my work.”

As she entered her ninth academic year at the University this month, Rabbi Roth had some validation to her mission as she was one of seven around the country to be named a recipient of the 2013 Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award from Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

For the past 10 years, the award has been given to professionals in various stages of their careers who have offered innovative approaches to enhancing campus life for Jewish students. Winners are announced at a yearly gathering of Jewish professionals from all over the world.

”Rabbi Roth is a courageous and visionary leader who seeks excellence in every aspect of her work,” says Darcie Crystal, board chair of the Center for Jewish Life. “She is a mentor and role model to the rest of the CJL staff, a teacher and pastor to the hundreds of students on campus who seek her out, and a true partner in our mission of reaching and impacting the life of every Jewish student at Princeton.”

Rabbi Roth was nominated by her peers and didn’t know she had won until the ceremony, where someone reads a speech about each winner (without naming them first) and highlight the person’s contributions.”I didn’t know I was nominated. It’s kind of a secret and when they read the award, they set up describing the person and get more and more specific and a sentence or two before you might be able to guess the person,” she says. “I was very honored and very touched. Because it’s peer nominated, it was very meaningful.”

The passage about Rabbi Roth mentioned her passion for pluralism, Jewish life, and multiculturalism in helping her build a campus environment that welcomes students of all backgrounds and simultaneously challenges and nurtures them. They also mentioned her high commitment to the Muslim-Jewish long-term relationship, something for which Rabbi Roth has a deep drive.

”What a wonderfully appropriate honor for Rabbi Julie Roth, and a most fitting acknowledgement of her work to make Princeton’s Hillel such a magnificent resource for the University community,” says the Rev. Alison L. Boden, dean of Religious Life.Another element of the speech concerned Rabbi Roth’s father, a Holocaust survivor who came to the U.S. in 1952 and died last year.

”My community came together to honor my father through a collective study project where over 100 people signed up to study a different part of the Torah in my father’s memory,” Rabbi Roth says. “That was something that was very special for me.”

Originally from Cleveland, Rabbi Roth has worked for Hillel on both local and international levels in New York, Boston, and Washington. She was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2005 and holds a B.A. in Comparative Religion from Brown University. She also is a recipient of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship. She now lives in Princeton with her husband Justus, daughter Noa and twin boys Ilan and Rafael.

Rabbi Roth compares being a Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award winner to something akin to a restaurant getting a five-star rating.

”It’s an honorary title. It comes with a certificate and you receive a special pin that identifies you as an example of excellence and from that point forward, you are identified at every conference,” she says. “It becomes part of your title in a sense. I am honored that I was named and thank those in Princeton who have been such a big part of this.”

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