This year, the 47th Marcos Katz award was presented to representatives of the Chabad movement in honor of its Shluchim Office. The award was given in the presence of President Isaac Herzog. It was granted to them because of the many halachic challenges that Chabad faces around the world – challenges that have only worsened as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The Katz Prize was established in 1975 by Marcos and Adina Katz in memory of his mother, Adela Katz. According to its mission statement, the goal of the Katz Prize is “identification and recognition of individuals and projects that deal with the implementation of Jewish law in modern-day life in written pieces of work and practical projects.”
The prize, presented annually in a ceremony that takes place in Jerusalem, amounts to $25,000 for each recipient.
Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky
This year’s award was given to Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, one of the leaders of the international Chabad movement, who is responsible for many initiatives for its emissaries. He was sent to represent his father, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who is responsible for the Shluchim Office.
“I am here on behalf of the 6,000 families of the shluchim scattered across almost 120 countries. This is an enterprise that grows year by year under the inspiration of the Lubavitcher Rebbe,” he said at the event last week.
“The Chabad Shluchim Office, which was founded by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, has expanded greatly in recent years in an outstanding way,” the committee members said as they explained their decision to honor the Chabad movement with the 2022 award.
“Young couples, after their marriage, leave their home and family,” said their letter, written to explain the award. “The Chabadniks devotedly go for many years to an unknown land, sometimes to remote areas and even to war zones. They do this out of a sense of responsibility and concern for every Jew, solely for heaven’s sake. There doesn’t seem to be a Jew traveling the world on business or a leisure trip who doesn’t need the help of the shluchim, whether to keep Shabbat, use a mikveh (ritual bath) or eat kosher food.”
There doesn’t seem to be a Jew traveling the world on business or a leisure trip who doesn’t need the help of the shluchim, whether to keep Shabbat, use a mikveh (ritual bath) or eat kosher food.”The Katz Award statement
Members of the award committee include Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, former president of Hebrew University; Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky, former judge in the Great Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem; and leading author and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Haim Sabato.
Regarding Chabad’s work around the world, the three committee members wrote that the shluchim accept anyone and everyone. “Everyone without exception is warmly welcomed and is treated to a level of hospitality that is comparable to that of our patriarch Abraham,” they said. “The shluchim also serve as a sympathetic ear to young people who have lost their way and are looking for meaning in their lives.”
They also mentioned the current war in Ukraine as an additional reason to honor the movement. “Recently, the whole world discovered the mighty Chabad enterprise in the wake of the Russian-Ukrainian war,” they wrote. “In the past year, the shluchim institution has been revealed in all its beauty and power. It warms anyone’s heart to see thousands who seek peace, love people and bring them close to the Torah.”
As mentioned earlier, the Katz Prize is awarded to individuals and institutions involved in the application and operation of Jewish law in modern life, in both halachic works and practical enterprises. The $25,000 award is given on behalf of the Katz family from Mexico. Until his death in 2016, Marcos Katz headed the foundation. Today, his wife Adina leads it.
Herzog spoke of Chabad at the ceremony, which was held at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. “It is a great privilege to host those who literally apply the phrase ‘from halacha to practice,’ and apply the world of Jewish halachic law in the renewed reality in which we live,” he said. “I would like to thank the Katz Foundation for its many activities that help shape the Jewish world in its richest, deepest and broadest sense.”