Today (Tuesday, June 2), in Israel and throughout the world, we mark the sixth annual Jewish Unity Day. In honor of the occasion, this year’s recipients of the Jerusalem Unity Prize were recognized in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. The ceremony was kept small because of the coronavirus, but it was broadcast on a number of social networks. The Jerusalem Unity Prize, including a monetary award, is given in three categories—local, national, and international—to individuals and organizations that work throughout the year to bring together different parts of Israeli society and Diaspora Jewry. Here are this year’s winners:
The winner in the national category is the Joint Council of Mechinot. As the umbrella body of 54 mechinot representing all parts of Israeli society, the Joint Council serves as a bridge between them in times of ideological crisis, while facilitating on a daily basis groundbreaking collaborations and a discourse about toleration and acceptance.
The winner in the local category is the Rehovot Mediation Center , which promotes dialogue and inculcates the language of dialogue in education and among various population groups in the city. The Center spurs discussion between religious and secular, newcomers and longtime Israelis, and more, and is a model for other local governments throughout Israel.
The winner in the international category is the Hakhel Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator, which establishes intimate communities of Jews of all denominations who don’t feel that they belong elsewhere. These communities are a significant source of internal and external social action.
Jewish Unity Day and the Jerusalem Unity Prize originated as an apolitical initiative of the Ifrach, Shaer, and Fraenkel families and former mayor of Jerusalem MK Nir Barkat, emerging from the sense of unity that descended upon Israeli society and Diaspora Jewry when the Three Boys were abducted in the summer of 2014. The goal of the prize is to recognize and support those who work to bolster Jewish unity, and to encourage additional initiatives to promote closeness, familiarity, and connectedness between the many rich, different flavors of Israeli and Diaspora Jewry.
The theme of this year’s ceremony was “Alone and United,” recognizing that recent months have been a complicated time for Israeli society. Yet while isolated far away from one another, we did not feel alone. Instead, we took strength from each other and came closer together in spirit. The sense of mutual responsibility that Israeli society felt during Operation Brother’s Keeper six years ago was powerfully present in this time as well.
Joint Council CEO Dani Zamir said: “This is the most exciting prize we’ve received, especially so during this complicated time. It’s a fact—we can be ideologically at odds and have piercing arguments, but still remain friends as we carry the stretcher together along the Zionist journey of rejuvenation, because at the end of the day, we have no other land.”
“This is the most exciting prize we’ve received, especially so during this complicated time. It’s a fact—we can be ideologically at odds and have piercing arguments, but still remain friends as we carry the stretcher together along the Zionist journey of rejuvenation, because at the end of the day, we have no other land”
MK Nir Barkat, who first proposed the Jerusalem Unity Prize, said: “The selection of winners this year happened in the midst of the corona days, at a time when we more deeply felt the need to care about each other and to ensure that all of us got through this period safely. Amid these feelings, a selection was made of three winners who provide inspiration for everyday action for the sake of unity within our people, our country, and the Diaspora. We draw this vision of unity from the families of the Three Boys, who demonstrate time and again the need and the ability to find what unites us.”
The Shaer, Ifrach, and Fraenkel families said: “This year, in the shadow of present challenges, we decided that we would hold the ceremony and Jewish Unity Day, while emphasizing, now in particular, how we felt both six years ago and in recent months. To us, the winners of the Jerusalem Unity Prize are a beacon and an inspiration for mutual responsibility and building closeness within Israeli society, between Israel and the Diaspora, and in the Diaspora itself.”
The winners were selected by a public committee comprised of MK Nir Barkat, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, former Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Kobi Oz, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Amal Asad, Noam Lautman, Rabbi Shay Piron, , Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs, , attorney Karin Mayer Rubinstein, Shlomi Yehiav, and the Ifrach, Shaer, and Fraenkel families