Atlantans gathered at the Buckhead Theatre on Thursday, March 23, to honor Bob Wilensky and Michael Kogon for their support and dedication to Hillels of Georgia.
The college organization’s annual musical fundraiser became “Peach
Perfect Georgia” this year and showcased a new format with a cappella performances by college groups in place of individual campus superstars.
“Our Georgia Hillels are not like any in the country,” said Michael Coles, the president of Hillels of Georgia. “AIPAC awarded us Campus Activist of the Year. Our executive director, Rabbi Russ Shulkes, is the Energizer Bunny. This year was also transformational because of a generous gift to Hillel by Bernie Marcus.”
Coles spoke about his childhood, when he was called a “Jew bastard” on the Buffalo, N.Y., playgrounds, and the serial entrepreneur said that being the lay leader of Hillels of Georgia is the best job he has ever had.
Considering his background — from cookies to coffee, from banking to politics — that’s saying a bundle.
Honoree Wilensky’s son Kevin said, “Dad has always led by example in terms of Jewish life, hard work, education and giving back to the community.”
In his address to the audience, Wilensky said, “Hillel is our front line of defense against BDS and anti-Semitism on campus.”
“Bob has served as president, treasurer, board member and on countless committees,” Coles said. “He bleeds Hillels of Georgia — a very deserving honoree.”
Kogon’s wife, Laurie, said: “Today is our 16th anniversary. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate Michael as an inspiration to our family. We are so proud of his work.”
Kogon, an ardent Zionist with deep roots in Atlanta originating at the Jewish Community Center and BBYO, is committed to creating a better Jewish community by serving on the Hillel executive board and as its vice president of Israel engagement, in addition to a history of leadership with AIPAC, the Epstein School and the Federation National Cabinet.
“There could not be a more knowledgeable and caring board member than Michael, who helps Hillels of Georgia navigate the stormy waters of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism on campus,” Coles said of Kogon.
Over more than a decade, the record for the Hillels of Georgia fundraiser was $370,000. This year scored $456,000 and counting.