Although immigrants from English-speaking countries have contributed to every facet of life in Israel, and many have distinguished themselves through their accomplishments, when it comes to prestigious prize awards, the ratio of native English-speakers is nowhere near the ratio of their representation in the population.
One of the key exceptions to this unwritten rule is the annual Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Zion prize which recognizes the achievements and contributions to the State of Israel of individuals from English-speaking countries.
At the Bonei Zion award ceremony at the President’s Residence on Monday, Gesher founder Rabbi Daniel Tropper, born in New York, received a Life Achievement award and was singled out for high praise by President Isaac Herzog, who said that Gesher had impressed him from its inception.
He commended Tropper for his bridge-building efforts among the diverse segments of the population, which, he said, is vitally needed today.
In a video clip, Tropper, like all the other honorees, expressed gratitude that his work, rather than his person, had been appreciated.
His greatest achievement, he said, had been to raise children and grandchildren who were each contributing to Israel in different ways. One of his children, Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper, was present.
At the start of the ceremony, Herzog said that he had been born in Israel and his children had been born in Israel, so neither he nor they had the privilege of following in the footsteps of Abraham the Patriarch and leaving their father’s house for the Promised Land.
But his father, he said, had come from Ireland and his mother from Egypt, so they had experienced the privilege of being olim.
Sylvan Adams, a longtime supporter of the Bonei Zion Prize, spoke at the ceremony, saying how extremely proud he is of all the Bonei Zion recipients.
“These extraordinary men and women symbolize how Anglos are making a significant impact on the State of Israel, as we see from their ongoing contributions in their various fields, as exemplary citizens," Adams said. "As we prepare to celebrate Israel’s Independence, I am especially honored to stand before you in the President’s residence, as an Israeli citizen, representing my own father who fought in the war of Independence. This is certainly a closure of a personal circle of mine as well.”
In addition to the other prize winners – Prof. Daniel Chamovitz for education, Josie Katz for culture, arts and sports, Micha Odenheimer for global impact, Dr. Jonathan Rieck for science and medicine, David B. Marcu for Community & Non-Profit and Michal Berman for young leadership – a special recognition award was presented to a sabra – Tel Aviv-born Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion in recognition of his tireless work to promote and develop immigration to the capital, including special services that ensure benefits for olim.
Lion recently inaugurated a new multi-purpose service center for olim.
In his video-taped message, Lion said: “I bless every Jew who wants to live in Jerusalem. You will enjoy every moment. We’re waiting for you.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh founders Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbert, each speaking separately, lauded all the honorees for their devotion, dedication, commitment and passion – and for their decision to move from their respective comfort zones to Israel.