BU student Eric M. Leiderman wins 2015 Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Award

By: Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Eric M. Leiderman received the 2015 Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Award from Margo Gold, the international president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Eric M. Leiderman, a student at Binghamton University, received the 2015 Shoshana S. Cardin Leadership Award on November 15. The award was given by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism for Leiderman’s work as the co-founder and director of Institutional Advancement of Masorti on the BU campus. It includes a $5,000 stipend and opportunities for Leiderman to connect with other emerging USCJ Jewish leaders from across the continent.
When asked about his efforts on campus, Leiderman said in an e-mail interview, “I have worked with student leaders and campus Jewish life professionals to develop campus specific programs. I have worked directly with the student co-chairs of our very successful Shabbatonim – at [the Jewish Theological Seminary] in 2014, and [the University of Maryland] in 2015. Additionally, I work to develop relationships with other Jewish organizations, both within the Conservative/Masorti movement and the larger American Jewish community to raise funds and support for non-Orthodox Jewish college students.”
Leiderman noted the important role religion plays in his life. “My motivations [for his work on campus] are deeply personal,” he said. “I am a firm believer that traditional Jewish practices and values are compatible with modern egalitarian and progressive values. The goal of Masorti on Campus is to work with campus communities to bolster progressive Jewish values.”
According to USCJ, “Masorti on Campus was founded in 2013 as a grass-roots student organization for Traditional-Egalitarian, Masorti and Conservative Judaism on North American college and university campuses... Masorti provides the opportunity to fill the academic year with Torah learning in a traditional, yet egalitarian, environment.”
In a speech given at the General Assembly at the USCJ convention, Leiderman noted the reasons he’s become so involved in the movement: He prefers “living in a community where it is not only OK to ask questions, but it is encouraged. Where engaging with text does not just mean understanding the peshat and derash, but rather how to incorporate it into your life!”
Instead of going straight to college after graduating high school, Leiderman took part in USCJ’s Nativ: The College Leadership Program in Israel. He found the experience “amazing.” He said, “For the first time in my life I was truly able to learn Torah lishma, learning Torah for the sake of learning Torah, in the beit midrash of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. While I had some amazing teachers in high school, the rabe’im and teachers I had at the CY were like no other – introducing me to topics like biblical criticism and texts like the Zohar. Unbelievable.”
A senior majoring in sociology and minoring in religious studies, Leiderman hopes to graduate in December 2016. He already has plans for life after college: “After I graduate, I hope to attend rabbinical school and continue working with young adults to build strong traditional-egalitarian communities.”