Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla visits Yad Vashem

Bourla is slated to be presented the Genesis Prize by President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Laying of the wreath in memory of the Jews of Salonika who perished in the Holocaust in the Hall of Remembrance. From left to right:  Myriam and Dr. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer; Stan Polovets, Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation; and Yad Vashem Chairman, Dani Dayan (photo credit: LENS PRODUCTIONS)
Laying of the wreath in memory of the Jews of Salonika who perished in the Holocaust in the Hall of Remembrance. From left to right: Myriam and Dr. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer; Stan Polovets, Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation; and Yad Vashem Chairman, Dani Dayan
(photo credit: LENS PRODUCTIONS)

Two days before he’s slated to receive the Genesis Prize, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Dr. Albert Bourla visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, on Monday.

Bourla will receive the prize – known as the “Jewish Nobel” – which recognizes the Laureate’s humanitarian impact, commitment to Jewish values and support for Israel, in a gala ceremony in Jerusalem Wednesday night. It will be presented by President Isaac Herzog.

The visit to the Mount of Remembrance was charged with personal and communal significance. Bourla, who is the son of Holocaust survivors from Greece, was greeted by Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, who accompanied him throughout his tour of the Holocaust History Museum.

Born in Thessaloniki, Bourla comes from a Sephardic family that experienced the horrors of the Holocaust. Bourla’s mother narrowly escaped death as she was pulled away from a firing squad at the last moment. A non-Jewish brother-in-law had paid a bribe to the Nazis to guarantee her life, yet the teenage girl was sent to be shot anyway. The relative found out that she was being taken for execution and called the Nazi officer, demanding that he honor the promise, resulting in a miraculous last-minute rescue.

“Yad Vashem is not like any other place I have visited. It is an incredibly powerful and moving experience and one that I will never forget,” said Bourla. “On the one hand, it is an essential reminder of what happens when antisemitism and hatred is left unchecked, as well as the consequences of diminishing the value of human life. On the other hand, it highlights the experiences of the Jewish people during the Shoah while being deeply inspiring, with the courage and resilience of the survivors giving us hope and reminding us that we should treat each life as sacred and worth celebrating.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla introduces US President Joe Biden as the president toured a Pfizer manufacturing plant producing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, US, February 19, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla introduces US President Joe Biden as the president toured a Pfizer manufacturing plant producing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Kalamazoo, Michigan, US, February 19, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)

“Yad Vashem is not like any other place I have visited. It is an incredibly powerful and moving experience and one that I will never forget.”

Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla

Memorial ceremony

During their visit to Yad Vashem, Bourla and his wife, Myriam, participated in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance. The two rekindled the Eternal Flame and laid a memorial wreath on the slab under which ashes of Holocaust victims are buried. Bourla then visited the Children’s Memorial, commemorating the 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust, and signed the Yad Vashem guestbook.

“It was an honor to welcome Dr. Bourla today to Yad Vashem, and I thank the Genesis Prize Foundation for arranging this visit,” said Dayan. “The Shoah chronicles the destruction of the once rich and effervescent Jewish life that thrived across Europe and North Africa. It is important for the public to continue to remember and commemorate the vibrant heritage, culture and traditions of these irreplaceable communities. To hear the sounds of the ancient Jewish language of Ladino coming out of the Mount of Remembrance is truly remarkable.”

Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said: “I was honored to accompany Albert on his visit to Yad Vashem and to witness firsthand his emotional and personal connection to six million souls lost in the Holocaust, along with his profound dedication to the saving of millions of lives today through his leadership at Pfizer.”