David Broza among recipients of President's Prize for Volunteerism

Broza has been working for the past twenty years to literally create harmony between Arab and Jewish youth in the belief that music does indeed have charms to soothe the savage breast.

David Broza (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
David Broza
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Internationally acclaimed singer-guitarist David Broza was among last week’s 12 recipients of the 2019 President’s Prize for Volunteerism.
Broza has been working for the past 20 years to literally create harmony between Arab and Jewish youth in the belief that music does indeed have charms to soothe the savage breast. As proof of this, Broza came on stage with a youth band comprising Jewish and Arab musicians and singers from Nazareth and east Jerusalem who played Arabic melodies and sang in Hebrew and Arabic while perfectly in tune with each other.
During the awards ceremony at the President’s Residence, President Reuven Rivlin noted that this was the 46th consecutive year of the prize, which was initiated during the term of Ephraim Katzir.
At its inception, he said, the prize was awarded to only two recipients: the Soldiers’ Welfare Organization and Yaakov Maimon, a Jerusalemite who traveled all over the country to help immigrant youths become fluent in Hebrew.
Before that, he said, volunteerism as such had not yet evolved.
It was a given that one person helped another in terms of basic needs, but not on a broader scale that included nourishing of the spirit, culture and the arts, which were the principal guidelines for this year’s nominees, of which there were hundreds.
Turning to the winners, Rivlin said: “You are the best of the best.”
Traditionally, there have been 12 prizes awarded each year to organizations and individuals. Noam Semel, who this year chaired the president’s advisory committee that determined the winners, was a natural for the role. For 26 years, Semel was the director of the Cameri Theater. His CV also includes Israel cultural consul in New York City and director of the Haifa Theater.
Rivlin said that his late wife, Nechama, had urged him to pick Semel for the role of chairman. Semel stated that he had dedicated this year’s competition to Nechama Rivlin, who was a great lover of the arts and culture and had contributed to both. He also paid tribute to his late wife Nava Semel, a well-known and prolific author, playwright, screenwriter and translator who died in December 2017.  The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Nava Semel lectured and conducted numerous workshops on Holocaust history and was dedicated to preserving memory of the Holocaust.
Semel said that whenever she returned from one of these lectures or workshops which she gave voluntarily, she always said that she felt privileged to be able to do so.
Thus the cause to which she was dedicated also found its place in this year’s awards. Semel recalled that when his wife died, the Rivlins had come to console him.
One thing he had in common with the president, said Semel, was that in both their cases, their forebears had come to Jerusalem long before the 19th- and 20th-century waves of immigration. His own great-grandfather Azriel Zelig Hoizdorf had at age 18 left his home in what was then Prussia to settle in the Holy Land. He traveled in a rickety overcrowded boat which was caught in stormy seas. There was a strong danger that the boat would sink. The captain turned to Hoizdorf and told him to jump overboard.  If he was lucky, he might be able to survive and swim to shore. If not, he would find his grave at the bottom of the sea.
“Why me?” asked the young Hoizdorf?
“Because you’re the only Jew on board,” was the reply.
On second thought, the captain decided that whatever happened, all the passengers, including Hoizdorf would share the same fate. He told Hoizdorf to pray to his God that the storm would subside. Instead, Hoizdorf went to his luggage where his father had packed a symbolic departing gift – a shofar. He took it out and blew it, and miraculously, the storm abated and the sea was calm. After that, the boat continued on to Jaffa without incident. Hoizdorf disembarked and made his way to Jerusalem on foot.
He subsequently became one of the people responsible for the construction of the Jewish neighborhood in the Old City.
What Semel may not have known was that a shofar also figured in the migration of Rivlin’s ancestors, who were disciples of the Gaon of Vilna. The year, according to the Hebrew calendar, was Tav Kuf Ayin, which as a word signified: Blow the great horn, namely the shofar. The Gaon of Vilna was convinced that this signified that this was the year of the coming of the Messiah and told his followers to go to Jerusalem in order to be in the Holy City to welcome Messiah’s arrival.
Regarding the winners of the prize for volunteerism, Rivlin underscored that they represent the mosaic of Israeli society, telling all of Israel’s diverse stories that arise from demographic diversity, and ensuring that all forms of cultural expression are accessible to every different tribe within Israeli society.
He told the winners that they represent the spirit of Israel.
Dr. Baruch Levy, the  president of the National Council for Volunteering, which was established by the government in 1972, said that the number of volunteers in different fields and in almost every age group is constantly increasing and contributing to greater understanding among people from different backgrounds. The more volunteers there are, the greater the sense of social security and the feeling of belonging, he said.
In addition to Broza, there were a number of other recipients of the President’s Prize for Volunteerism:
• Yuval Sinai, a 12th grade student at Tel Aviv’s famous Blich School, received the prize for founding the “Special Sound” project that enables youths with special needs to integrate with other youths and share musical experiences.
• American-born. Dr. Nurit Sirkis-Bank earned it for bringing an appreciation for contemporary art to girls and young women in schools in the haredi sector.
• Dr. As’ad Arida is a professional educator who has taught Hebrew to Arab and Druze youth. She chairs an organization that trains, educates and rehabilitates youngsters who have been referred by the welfare authorities and the courts, and has established a children’s village in Hurfeish for youth at risk.
• Anat Rothschild, who has worked with hi-tech companies has devised reading programs for children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, has been awarded the prize.
• Nimrod Moran, who was born deaf, volunteered for the IDF, and works with the deaf to enhance their appreciation of cultural events and conducts lectures and tours at the “Invitation to Silence” workshop at the Children’s Museum in Holon.
• Vladimir and Raisa Kogan, Holocaust survivors who conduct monthly lectures and social evenings on classical music for retirees, also won the prize jointly.
A number of institutions won the prize as well:
• Avivim, the Jewish Music Institute brings classical and Jewish music to the haredi community and to patients in hospitals.
• Memory in the Living Room (Zikaron Basalon) was established in 2011 by Adi Altshuler to make Holocaust Remembrance Day more meaningful to all sectors of society by creating first-person encounters between Holocaust survivors or second-generation survivors with varied audiences who come together in private living rooms to hear personal stories of suffering and survival.
• The Ben Yehuda Project collates and preserves Hebrew books and other texts, making them accessible to the general public.
• The Music Project, founded by Ran Shimoni to provide musical education and equal opportunities for at-risk youth.
• The Lior Foundation, which brings art and culture to soldiers on IDF bases. It was founded by theater and television actors Osnat and Shlomo Vishinsky following the death their soldier son Lior while on active duty.