A generous and humble leader, Duke honors Campus Rabbi for excellence of character and humanitarian service
Jewish Life at Duke is thrilled to announce that Rabbi Elana Friedman has been selected as a 2023 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient. Nine faculty, staff, alumni, and students nominated Friedman for this award, recognizing her excellence of character and humanitarian service.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards was established in 1925 in memory of Mr. Sullivan, a southerner who became a prominent lawyer, businessman and philanthropist in New York in the late nineteenth century. The award seeks to perpetuate the excellence of character and humanitarian service of Algernon Sydney Sullivan by recognizing and honoring such qualities in others. Duke University gives this award annually to recognize members of the Duke community who have demonstrated generosity of character and acted as humble community members, placing service to others before self-interest.
Rabbi Elana, as she is lovingly known on campus, has served as Duke’s Campus Rabbi and Jewish Chaplain at Jewish Life at Duke since 2015.
In her role as Campus Rabbi, she serves as chief Jewish educator and spiritual leader of the campus Jewish community. This includes providing counseling for students, facilitating opportunities for Jewish learning, and serving as liaison for Religious Life, convening the Interfaith Round Table of fellow Duke chaplains. Friedman facilitates the observance of Jewish holidays, supervises the kashrut of the Freeman Center Cafe’s kosher kitchen, and holds duties related to educating the greater campus community about Judaism, Jewish observances, and challenges facing the Jewish community, including antisemitism.
Colleagues and students wrote of Friedman’s impact on Duke’s Jewish community and campus at large. Dr. Laura Lieber of Duke’s Religious Studies Department shared among other remarks:
“I also want to single out the way in which Elana took what had been a very fragmented Jewish community at Duke and brought the ‘one Duke’ vision to life. Creating a sense of unity was something I had hoped the new rabbi would do when I served on the search committee, and she has done a brilliant job. This community-building is on display every Friday evening, when she gathers those students accustomed to guitar music (a staple of Jewish summer camps and, in particular, the Reform movement), to create a space of joy and camaraderie among that population, who then join a more diverse student body for a service that thoughtfully incorporates the traditions of both the Reform and Conservative movements (the two major populations among Duke students and faculty).”
Friedman’s colleague Rev. Kathryn Lester-Bacon, Director of Religious Life at Duke University Chapel echoed Rabbi’s commitment while highlighting her character:
“Rabbi Elana Friedman approaches all that she does with a heart and mind made for service to a greater community. As one who has seen Rabbi Elana’s work as a colleague and friend, I cannot separate her head, heart, and life knowledge. Her strength of character is inextricably intertwined with her wise authority and spiritual integrity.”
Alumna Sarah Jacobs T ’21 summed up the impact Friedman has in the Duke community by saying:
“Rabbi Elana shows up with her whole self every single day for the students of Duke University. There are countless stories of Jewish and non-Jewish students’ positive encounters with Rabbi Elana: from a casual smile while passing her on campus, to a coffee chat to catch up and ask for advice, to the life changing conversations that occur in her office on the toughest of days, Rabbi Elana is there for students in any and all capacities. I am just one of the thousands of Duke students’ lives she has inspired with her relatable Jewish wisdom, her infectious optimism and encouragement, and her genuine love and care for each student.”
Rabbi Elana said: “It is my greatest honor to serve as the Campus Rabbi and Jewish Chaplain of Duke. During rabbinical school, I realized that this is the work I wanted to do – to be in an academic setting, to work with emerging adults, to connect students to the beauty and challenge that Jewish tradition provides, to help people belong, find community and find purpose in this complex, wild and beautiful life. How awesome is it that I get to do this every day?”
The award ceremony took place Monday, April 17, 2023 in the Allen Building Boardroom on Duke University’s campus.
Please join us in wishing a hearty mazal tov to Rabbi Elana on this prestigious honor. The Duke community has been enriched by her thoughtful leadership, generous heart, and dedicated service.
Read more about the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and fellow honorees on DukeToday.
About Jewish Life at Duke
Jewish Life at Duke (JLD) is the hub for all things Jewish on Duke’s campus. An accredited Hillel as well as a department within Duke University’s Division of Student Affairs, Jewish Life at Duke is guided by a mission to empower Jewish students to learn and grow intellectually and spiritually; to inspire and nurture personal paths to Jewish identity; and to cultivate community and friendship. Comprising the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and the Rubenstein-Silvers Hillel, JLD takes a pluralistic approach to Judaism to ensure that all Jewish students, regardless of affiliation, are welcome and included.
100% of JLD’s operating budget comes from donations from alumni, parents, and friends.
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