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Irit Umani

The 2014 Charles J. Cook Award in Servant Leadership
Irit Umani

Humanitarian, peace activist, spiritual guide, educator, advocate for the marginalized, and friend to the homeless. You have dedicated your life to caring for the voiceless, those in danger, and those in need of hope.

Israeli-born, you established and directed the Haifa Women’s Crisis Shelter, which continues to this day, and is the only shelter in Israel whose board and staff consist of women from Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In a land ravaged by violence and segregated by religion, the shelter demonstrates that when faith is focused on compassion, healing has a starting place.

Your spirituality draws deeply from several religious traditions. Your understanding of these traditions is that they call us to action. The three years you lived in intentional community in New Mexico helped you to understand how your life of service and spiritual awareness could inform your vocation. Not long afterwards, you answered an ad on craigslist, which brought you to our fair city to become the executive director of Trinity Center.

The day center provides friendship and support for people who have no home and few, if any, deep connections. Your leadership gifts permeate the ethos of the staff and volunteers who serve alongside you. Those who come to Trinity Center for assistance are called “neighbors,” which reflects the commitment to see each one as a friend. You have said that ‘love for your neighbor’ is what guides your work and your sense of how you serve the Beloved.

Friends remember your extra care when one of the neighbors was dying of cancer. You found a place for her to live her last days with respect, and you held a memorial service following her death. The neighbors of Trinity Center gathered to honor and remember their friend when no one else did.

Your love of people, your commitment to honor each person, and your welcoming presence are constants of your life. Colleagues at Trinity Center describe your work as your “calling.” You have said that the path of service is not that of the preacher or the prophet; rather, it is the path of the Levite who keeps the temple clean and makes certain that there is oil for the lamp.

Because of your life’s work of leading by serving, of making the temple inviting and of keeping the lamp burning for the neighbors, Seminary of the Southwest is honored to present you with the Charles J. Cook Award in Servant Leadership.


Cynthia Briggs Kittredge                                                                                Nathan Jennings
Dean and President                                                                                         Faculty Secretary

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