Nefesh B’Nefesh presented seven “outstanding olim” with the aliya organization’s Bonei Zion (“Builders of Zion”) Award at a ceremony in the Knesset on Thursday.
The $10,000 award recognizes English speaking immigrants who have made a substantial contribution to Israeli society.
Speaking to a largely American audience, Nefesh B’Nefesh co-founder and executive director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass said that he was motivated to create the award in order to showcase to Diaspora Jewry the success that immigrants can achieve in Israel as well as to show the Israeli public the outsized influence that he believes the English-speaking community has attained.
“The ripple effect of the Anglo [native English speaking] community here in Israel is undeniably extraordinary,” Fass boasted.
Longtime Jerusalem Post cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, who illustrates the internationally syndicated Dry Bones strip, received the award in the arts, culture and sport category, quipping that it was appropriate that he win because he is “wearing sport shoes.”
“I only use the cane so I don’t fall down,” he added to general applause as he walked off stage after receiving his award.
Jerusalem Post columnist, presidential hopeful and solar energy pioneer Yosef Abramowitz was recognized by Nefesh B’Nefesh for his work in the technological sector.
Leket Israel founder Joseph Gitler was recognized for his organization’s community and nonprofit achievements distributing discarded food to approximately 140,000 needy people each week. Rabbanit Malke Bina of Matan received the prize for revolutionizing women’s education in Israel. Jeffrey Hausdorff, a professor at Tel Aviv University and director of the Neurodynamics and Gait Research Laboratory at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, was honored for his contributions to science and medicine.
Lt. Nira Lee was awarded for her leadership in the IDF coordinating humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Prof. Shimon Glick of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Speaking to attendees, Knesset Speaker and Soviet immigrant Yuli Edelstein said that no oleh should feel “less Israeli” than Jews who were born here.
“Without new immigrants we would have no state,” he said.