Cornell Sermon Contest

The 8th Annual Harold I. Saperstein '31 Cornell Student Topical Sermon Contest challenges you to address:
How can we find a modern sexual ethics?

Sexual harassment has been in the news daily for the past several months.  The #metoo campaign on social media has revealed just how widespread it is.

We cite a few recent writings on the subject:



Harold I. Saperstein '31
A prominent rabbi and advocate for social justice whose sermons stirred people from the pulpit for over fifty years.

Cornell students will carry on that tradition this year, Tuesdays in the Founders Room of Anabel Taylor Hall from 4:30 - 6:15 pm.  Sermons to begin on February 13th (every Tuesday except 2/20 Feb.) through March 13, 2018.  An Awards Gala with special guests is tentatively scheduled for March 20, 2018.

Our Questions

How can we find a modern sexual ethics?

How shall we treat each other?

Can employment be affliction free?

Your Answer

Present a sermon.  Your "Bully Pulpit" to speak on today's most important and cultural issues!


All Cornell students, undergraduate and graduate, are invited and encouraged to participate.

Students should prepare and deliver a sermon of twelve to eighteen minutes (6-8 written pages) using the following guidelines:
All Sermons presented for the Contest will be video recorded.  After being used by the judges in their deliberations, the videos will be placed in the Cornell Archives.

A.  The sermons should include a scriptural source including but not limited to those listed below.

B.  Sermons should include a few words on Harold I. Saperstein '31 specifically his views on social justice, fairness and individual responsibility.

C.  Sermons should point to the issues facing sexual ethics today.

D.  Sermons should include some of the accomplishments of our honoree, Elizabeth "Beth" Garrett.

The contest winner will give their winning sermon at the Gala, so they should bring all the material they need to give the sermon to the Gala.  The winner will not know who they are until the public announcement at the Gala, so all contestants should be prepare to give their sermon.

Scriptural Sources from the Hebrew Bible: 






LEVITICUS 18, 19, 20

13, 14

15, 20





This year's honoree, President Elizabeth Garrett, died March 2016 at age 52.

President Garrett had a very short tenure at Cornell.

Chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees, Robert Harrison `76:
"A remarkable human being and a vibrant and passionate leader;"
"the quintessential Cornellian"
"President Garret left a lasting legacy on Cornell."

Provost Michael Kotlikoff:
"an inspiring visionary and leader who constantly raised the bar for all at Cornell."

President Garrett was actively involved in campus issues, working to ameliorate housing problems for graduate students, approved the opening of Anabel's Grocery, rearranging Day Hall leadership and defending freedom of speech on campus.  President Garrett frequently expressed her support for students and faculty.

Her legacies at Cornell include:
1. Spearheading an effort to group Cornell's three accredited business programs into the College of Business.

2. Obtained the USC Shoah Foundations Visible History Archives, to be housed in Cornell's library for the Cornell community and beyond to access. Robert Katz `69, Cornell trustee emeritus and former board chair of the USC Shoah Archives noted Cornell's library as "a technological leader and this kind of digital historiography was a logical fit."  Anne R. Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian: "This collection offers incredible first hand testimonials of the effects of mass genocide campaigns on the survivors." 

Elizabeth Garrett is the second Cornell President to be honored in the Saperstein Sermon Contest.

Sign up for the Sermon Contest! FIRST PRIZE $1800!!

Slots are limited and going fast...
To participate, please choose an available date (2/13, 2/27, 3/6, 3/13) and email this year's coordinator:
Janelle Hanson
Slots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.  You may reschedule later if the need be, the important thing is to sign up now! 

We welcome and encourage members of the Cornell community to attend, whether they're presenting sermons or not.  Refreshments will be provided at every meeting!

Previous Contest Winners