Jerusalem (May. 31)
The Jerusalem Prize was awarded by President Yitzhak Navon today to the Chief Rabbi of France, Rene Sirat, and to three other recipients from Switzerland, Canada and Israel.
The award was presented by the World Zionist Organization at a festive ceremony at the President’s residenc attended by WZO chairman, Leon Dulzin, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, March Bonfous, the French Ambassador to Israel, Knesset members and educators.
The Award Committee, headed by Judge Yaacov Bazak, had decided unanimously to award the prize to Rabbi Sirat, Rabbi Moshe Bochko, head of Yeshivat Etz Haim of Montre, Switzerland, Nahman Sokol, of Toronto, and Avraham Shamir, an Israeli who directed a Jewish school in Brazil as an emissary of the WZO’s Department of Torah Education and Culture.
The committee cited Sirat’s unique contribution to Jewish education manifested by the support of the French government to Jewish and Hebrew studies in non-Jewish schools as well as universities and the official recognition of the educational institutions in these programs. The committee decided that this achievement, thanks to Sirat, implies a revolution in French society, which by its very nature used to assimilate alien cultures into the French culture.
Accepting the award, Sirat said the honor was not only his, but that of the “wonderful French community,” which he has headed for the past five months.
Noting that the ceremony was taking place on the eve of Jerusalem Day, Sirat said the joy was not complete as long as Jews are imprisoned in the USSR and the Arab countries. He pledged to continue the mission of exposing Jewish children to Jewish education. “As long as one Jewish child of my community does not receive proper Jewish education, I will not have fulfilled my duty,” he said.