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Story of Esther by ILR student wins sermon contest

From left, Norman Turkish '56, MBA '60, poses with Mark Saperstein (son of Harold I. Saperstein '31), winner Sarah Victor '14 and last year's winner, Matthew Scheff '13.

The stories of Esther and the signers of the Declaration of Independence and how they all stood up for others despite risking their own safety was the topic of the sermon that won the second annual Harold I. Saperstein '31 Topical Sermon Contest on American Ideals at Cornell.

Sarah Victor '14, an ILR student, wrote and redelivered her winning sermon April 29 to a standing ovation in Friends Hall. Her prize was $1,800.

Second prize went to Perry Swergold '13, and third went to Elliot Dine '14.

The contest's theme this year was the concepts of fairness and social justice; contestants were required to draw upon selected passages from Exodus, Leviticus and the Prophets, apply them to contemporary social justice issues, and then deliver their 12- to 18-minute long sermons during the semester in Anabel Taylor Hall.

The Saperstein topical sermon contest was initiated by Norman Turkish '56, MBA '60, to give Cornell's Jewish community a venue to appreciate the links between the teachings of their tradition and the tenets of social justice. The contest is in memory of Saperstein, a rabbi and activist in Lynbrook, N.Y., whose sermons on social justice and civil rights raised awareness on anti-Semitism and American civil rights issues for some 50 years before he retired in 1980.

This year's contest was dedicated to the late Milton R. Konvitz, Ph.D. '33, a lawyer and law professor, social critic and founding faculty member of the School of Industrial and Labor Relations from 1946 until he retired in 1973. His course American Ideals had some 8,000 students over the years and focused on civil rights, including love, equality, justice, human dignity, freedom and the rule of law.

This year 31 students entered the competition, which was open to all undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.

The Cornell Forensics Society, Cornell Hillel and Cornell United Religious Work helped coordinate the event.


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