Judge Marilyn Zayas hosts 2023 AJC’s Simon Lazarus Jr. Award Finalists

Each year since 1965 the Cincinnati office of American Jewish Committee (AJC) recognizes outstanding high school juniors and seniors who demonstrate a commitment to upholding values of community service and their responsibility to tikkun olam, repairing our world. The Simon Lazarus Jr., Human Relations Awards invites students from across the tri-state’s public, parochial and private high schools to highlight their experiences in reducing intolerance and hate, building bridges with others, and serving those in need.

This year’s 10 student finalists and winners were selected from the pool of applicants by a distinguished panel of five community leaders, including Hamilton County Judge Marilyn Zayas. The award reception welcomed students, families, friends, and community members to celebrate the accomplishments and choices of these young leaders. “AJC and the people within it believed in my gifts and have instilled in me a sense of confidence in what I’m capable of and have encouraged me to continually serve others,” said Grace Santa, one of the student winners.

(L:R Katie Wang, Judge Zayas, Grace Santa, Kiana Turnbow, Nour Shalash)

(L:R Katie Wang, Judge Zayas, Grace Santa, Kiana Turnbow, Nour Shalash)

A typical year would conclude with winners and attendees networking at the reception in hopes of uncovering new opportunities and connections. This year, a couple of months after the event, a group of finalists were thrilled to accept an invitation from Judge Zayas for a behind-the-scenes tour of Ohio’s First District Court of Appeals.

Today was honestly such an amazing experience,” said student finalist Nour Shalash. “Upon first meeting Judge Zayas at the Simon Lazarus Award Ceremony, I was inspired by her work ethic and passion for what she does. But today after witnessing the various judges in action, I was able to not only gain an enriching experience as to how law is applied in a courtroom, but also the reality of what it means to uphold the law and overcome adversity,” she added.

During the students’ visit they observed Court proceedings, engaged with several judges, met with Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey, and learned about the Ohio judiciary as well as the important role prosecutors play in the court system.

Judge Zayas shared, “I am committed to working with students to expose them to new experiences and opportunities to consider as they plan their futures. Although these finalists come from different backgrounds, all have worked hard to achieve in school and are dedicated to improving our community through public service. These finalists are well on their way to a bright future!”

“It’s heartening to hear students speak to the real-world value of the award and the importance of community partnerships,” said Justin Kirschner, Regional Director of AJC Cincinnati. To learn more and apply for the 2024 Simon Lazarus Jr. Human Relations Awards, please visit ajc.org/cincinnati or email us at [email protected].

The First District Court of Appeals is one of twelve appellate districts in the State of Ohio. The First District hears appeals from the trial courts of Hamilton County including all divisions of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, Hamilton County Probate Court, Hamilton County Municipal Court, and Hamilton County Juvenile Court. Judge Zayas is the senior most judge at the court, and the first elected Latina to any Ohio Court of Appeals.

AJC is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people. Through its unparalleled network of offices, institutes and international partnerships, AJC engages with leaders at the highest levels of government and builds civil society coalitions to counter antisemitism and hate, open new doors for Israel and advance democratic values.