About Phyllis G. Margolius

Phyllis Ann Goldman Margolius cared deeply about strengthening the Jewish community in Washington, D.C., Israel, and around the world. Where others saw problems, she saw opportunities and solutions, pushing the needle forward and motivating those around her to do the same.

She was loved and cherished by many – not only for her meaningful and charitable work for organizations like the United Jewish Endowment Fund, the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Washington, and the Council of Jewish Federations, but also for her personable demeanor, creative approach to issues, and her determination to succeed even under seemingly impossible circumstances. Phyllis inspired her family, friends, colleagues, and the greater Jewish community at large to get involved, give back, and make a positive impact on our world… just like she did.

The Phyllis G. Margolius Impossible Dream Award

Throughout their lives, Phyllis and her husband of 45 years, Philip, received numerous awards for service to their community. Now, in honor of Phyllis’ legacy, The Phyllis Margolius Family Foundation, Inc. is paying it forward and honoring one local D.C.-area Jewish communal professional with the prestigious Phyllis G. Margolius Impossible Dream Award. This award carries a cash prize of $18,000.

The winner will be someone who has achieved a result against difficult odds – just like Phyllis did. They could have accomplished their goals through innovation, disruption, mediation, relationship-building, a partnership, a merger, a turn-around, and/or transformation.

This Year’s Winner:

2024: Rabbi Ari Israel, University of Maryland Hillel

Register for the Award Event on April 11, 2024

Our past winners:

2023: Rachel Gildiner, Gather, Inc.

Who Is Eligible for the Award?

We are accepting nominations for any professional working in the Jewish communal world. Self-nominations and nominations from a family member will not be accepted.

The recipient requirements are as follows:

Work experience of at least 5 years in the Jewish community

Currently affiliated with a Jewish organization

Has expressed a commitment to remain in Jewish communal work

Professional resides in the DC area

The ideal recipient will also have the following qualifications:

An exceptional Jewish nonprofit professional

Has had a significant impact on the local, national or Israeli community

Generates outstanding outcomes, often overcoming difficult obstacles

A role model for others

Collaborator on teams

Dedicated to Jewish continuity

Any professional meeting the qualifications and working for a Jewish nonprofit in the D.C. area is eligible for this award. Organizations can be local, national or global, as long as there is a physical or remote D.C. area office and it is the professional’s place of residence.

How to Submit a Nomination

Due to the current crisis, we have streamlined our nominations process. 

Complete nominations will consist of the following

Nominator information and relationship to the nominee

Nominee CV

A Dreamer Statement explaining why this person should be considered for this award (not more than 500 words or a four-minute video)

Nominator downloads and fills out the Nomination Form. The Dreamer Statement submitted by the Nominator should include a summary of the project or challenge undertaken, including the vision, obstacles that were overcome, how the person overcame them or is overcoming them, the impact of this undertaking and what success looks like. We seek to understand why this person above others is deserving of this level of recognition.

The Nominator will send the nominee a Notice of Nomination, after which the nominee will provide their CV to the same email address.

Each part of the nomination process can be emailed separately to the Foundation with clearly marked nominee identification on the documents and in the subject line of the email.

Nominators or nominees might be contacted to provide additional information to the Foundation.


Nominations will be open between November 1 – December 31, 2023.
Only those individuals with completed nomination kits (all parts of the process) will be considered for the award.

Our prestigious selection panel will select the winner to be announced in March. The 2024 award event will take place on April 11, 2024 3:30-5pm at the BenderJCC in Rockville, Maryland.  REGISTER HERE

Our Selection Committee

The Impossible Dream Award winner will be selected by our esteemed Selection Committee.

We look forward to reviewing your submissions and celebrating this outstanding professional!

Questions? Contact The Phyllis Margolius Family Foundation, Inc. at


Phyllis G. Margolius Impossible Dream Award Announcement 2024

Rabbi Ari Israel Named Recipient of 2024 Phyllis G. Margolius Impossible Dream Award

Washington, DC, March 19, 2024 — The Phyllis Margolius Family Foundation is excited to announce today that Rabbi Ari Israel has been named as the recipient of the 2024 Phyllis G. Margolius Impossible Dream Award. Rabbi Israel was selected by the committee for his leadership as Executive Director of the University of Maryland Hillel and his work to support Jewish life on and off campus.

Rabbi Israel is the second recipient of the Phyllis G. Margolius Impossible Dream Award, given annually to a Jewish communal professional who echoes the character, inspiration, and determination of its namesake, Phyllis Ann Goldman Margolius. Phyllis cared deeply about strengthening the Jewish community in Washington, D.C., Israel, and around the world. Where others saw problems, she saw opportunities and solutions, pushing the needle forward and motivating those around her to do the same.

As part of the award, Rabbi Israel will receive an $18,000 cash prize for his dedication to strengthening the Jewish community. Like Phyllis, Rabbi Israel has demonstrated a genuine understanding of the value of leading a Jewish life. “It is profoundly humbling to be chosen as the recipient of this prestigious award, bestowed in remembrance of Phyllis Margolius, a cherished and exemplary Jewish lay leader,” said Rabbi Ari Israel. “Dreaming the impossible is only imaginable through the unwavering dedication and collaborative efforts of my esteemed Hillel colleagues, cherished lay leaders, and loving family, who are my partners and inspiration.”

Rabbi Israel has served as the Executive Director of the University of Maryland Hillel for over 20 years. Under Rabbi Ari’s leadership, Maryland Hillel has developed into one of the nation’s most engaged Hillels, with more than 4,000 of the University’s 6,000 undergraduate Jewish students coming to Hillel to experience community, participate in religious services, and hear guest educators.

Under Rabbi Ari’s tutelage, the Maryland Hillel hosts a robust dialogue between Jews of all backgrounds. His innovative programs, such as Spin Love, Not Hate, draw several hundred students and dozens of student groups, fostering cross-cultural inclusivity among diverse campus communities.

Perhaps the biggest testament to Rabbi Ari’s leadership is the number of his students’ weddings he has officiated. He flies all around the country to be present for this important milestone in his student’s lives. As one of Rabbi Ari’s students said, “Jewish seniors now desire employment in the Jewish world and pick their next home based on Jewish opportunities because of the transformative impact their college Jewish community had on them. These are a few manifestations of Rabbi Ari Israel’s tireless leadership over more than two decades.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has been an invaluable partner in the fulfillment of this award. Phyllis devoted many hours in the work of Federation, and it is one of the many organizations in which she observed the depth of devotion and talent that Jewish professionals bring to our community. “Ari’s commitment to furthering Jewish life through his work with students at Maryland University Hillel exemplifies what the award is meant to be – to honor an outstanding individual in the Washington D.C. area who has dedicated his or her life to Jewish communal work and in so doing has accomplished outstanding results,” said Philip Margolius. “Ari is the kind of professional who Phyllis would have loved, one who sees a need and then, despite overwhelming odds, meets that need by bringing strong professional and lay leadership to build together.

Rabbi Ari Israel will receive his award at an event to honor Jewish communal professionals on Thursday, April 11, 2024, from 3:30 pm -5pm at the BenderJCC in Rockville, Maryland. The event is co-sponsored by the Phyllis Margolius Family Foundation, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the BenderJCC.