(Photo: Patrice “Patti” Morris Phillips at a 2017 event.)

In 2020, after the passing of Sheryl “Sheri” Schiff, one of metropolitan Detroit’s extraordinary volunteers, it was obvious to the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee (JCRC/AJC) that the organization needed to honor its longtime Board Member in some way.

Later that year, staff from JCRC/AJC joined with her family to create the Sheryl “Sheri” Terebelo Schiff Heart of Gold Award. This accolade, given yearly at the May Annual Meeting, would go to an unpaid volunteer for any Jewish organization that serves the local community. All recipients must have contributed to and for the general good of the Jewish community and demonstrated dedication, knowledge and care in the provision of these services.

Said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director, JCRC/AJC, “This award recognizes individuals who carry on the legacy of Sherri Schiff’s Z”l passionate and devoted commitment to the Jewish community and its values.”

The first award was bestowed in May 2021, posthumously, to the late Micki Grossman, whom Sheri worked closely with on JCRC/AJC’s Mitzvah Day, as well as other community projects such as Bookstock.

In March, when the award committee met to determine their second recipient, the group was touched by the many nominations they received from fellow communal organizations. However, one nomination stood out above others – the one for MSU Hillel’s Board President, Patrice “Patti” Morris Phillips.

In the form, Executive Director Cindy Hughey noted that Phillips has been an active member of the Detroit Jewish community for more than 30 years. In that time, she has served on the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s Board of Governors, representing her family’s foundation, the Prentis Family Support Foundation, and on the board of Temple Beth El, among others. She also has volunteered and supported Federation’s Annual Campaign, Bookstock, Jewish Family Service, Tamarack Camps, Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, Hebrew Free Loan, and many more organizations both in the Jewish and general community. Surprisingly, this past chair of the Jewish Women’s Foundation has never been widely recognized for her commitment to the community.

Said Hughey, “We are so fortunate to have such a dedicated and generous person like Patti in our community. Her commitment to the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and agencies like mine is remarkable. MSU Hillel and the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan would not have become the dynamic and vibrant organizations we are today without her vision and support.”

“Patti has worked quietly and tirelessly to make our community a better place,” added Carly Schiff, one of Sheri’s beloved daughters, while she presented the award to Phillips. “She truly deserved to receive this award because she, like my mother, has a heart of gold and gives back to our Jewish community without any expectation of acknowledgment.”

Prior to becoming a lifelong volunteer, the daughter of Jewell and Lester Morris, for whom MSU Hillel’s building is named, attended Grosse Pointe University School and Kingswood School/Cranbrook before heading to Michigan State University and Drake University, where she received a degree in journalism. Following graduation, she worked in advertising and public relations for Barnum and Bailey Circus and at Kenyon Eckhardt Advertising.

Said Phillips, “I am so honored to have received the Sheryl “Sheri” Terebelo Schiff Heart of Gold Award. The work that Sheri, and Micki, did in the community was the Platinum standard. I was fortunate to volunteer alongside both of them in the past.”

Phillips is married to Dr. Eric Phillips, with whom she has two daughters, Jennifer Phillips-Weckstein, who is married to Daniel and has two children, Liam and Ellery, and Rachel Bigio, who is married to Joey.

The nomination form for the third Sheryl “Sheri” Terebelo Schiff Heart of Gold Award will be made available in January 2023.