Nefesh B’Nefesh debuts $10,000 prizes to high-achieving immigrants

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A food bank chairman, a solar energy pioneer and the creator of the “Dry Bones” comic strip are among the first winners of a Nefesh B’Nefesh prize recognizing immigrants to Israel.

More than 200 immigrants from English-speaking countries were nominated for the Bonei Zion Prize, which was awarded in five categories as well as for lifetime achievement. The recipients hailed originally from the United States.

Each of the winners will receive a $10,000 prize at a ceremony soon in Jerusalem.

Joseph Gitler, who made aliyah in 2000, won in the Community and Non-Profit category for his work as founder and chairman of Leket Israel, a national food bank that provides food for more than 140,000 people weekly.

The founder and chancellor of the women’s learning center Matan, Malke Bina, received the award in the Education category. Bina, who was one of the first educators in Israel to teach Talmud and Jewish law to female students, made aliyah in 1971.

The recipient for Entrepreneurship and Technology was Yosef Abramowitz, the CEO and a co-founder of Energiya Global Capital as well as a co-founder of the Arava Power Company. Abramowitz, whom Nefesh B’Nefesh dubbed “Israel’s premier solar energy pioneer,” made aliyah in 2006.

Jeffery Hausdorff, the recipient in the Science and Medicine category, left a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School in 2000 to make aliyah and is now a professor at Tel Aviv University and director of the Neurodynamics and Gait Research Laboratory at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Hausdorff has contributed to research in neuroscience and aging in Israel and worldwide.

Yaakov Kirschen, creator of the popular “Dry Bones” comic strip, received the prize in the Culture, Sports and Arts category. Kirschen made aliyah in 1972.

Lt. Nira Lee, head of hasbara at the headquarters of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, received the prize in the IDF and National Service Young Leadership category. The Arizona native has served in the Israel Defense Forces for three years; she made aliyah in 2010. Lee received the President’s Citation of Excellence in 2013.

The Lifetime Achievement winner was Shimon Glick, a professor and dean emeritus of the health sciences faculty at Ben Gurion University. He made aliyah in 1974 to help found the university’s faculty of medicine.

“We hope that accentuating the achievements of Anglo olim will serve as a catalyst to inspire others to make aliyah as well as highlight the achievements of these olim who are helping to make a difference to our homeland,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, the executive director and a co-founder of Nefesh B’Nefesh, in a statement.

The panel of judges included retired Lt. -Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, former chief of staff for the Israel Defense Forces; Dr. David Breakstone, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization; David Gerstein, a prominent painter and sculptor; Rabbi Berel Wein, founder and director of The Destiny Foundation; Yehuda Avner, an author and a former diplomat and prime ministerial adviser; and Barbara Goldstein, the deputy executive director of Hadassah in Israel.

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