Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion to Honor the Southern Poverty Law Center and Morris Dees, Jr.

Tuesday, May 1, 2001

Morris Dees, Jr. and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will receive the 2001 Roger E. Joseph Prize from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Dees and the SPLC are being honored for their decades-long legal work pursuing justice and fair treatment while combating prejudice and hate. The Center has become internationally known for its success in developing novel legal strategies to shut down extremist activity and to help victims of hate crimes win monetary damages against groups like the Aryan Nations.

"With courage nourished by personal commitment and benefitting from brilliant and inventive legal skills balanced with passion, Morris and the Center are inspiring examples to us all," explains Dr. Norman J. Cohen, HUC-JIR's Acting President. Dr. Cohen will present the Joseph Prize to Dees at the Investiture and Ordination Ceremonies of HUC-JIR, which will be held on Sunday, May 20, 2001 at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 7 West 83rd Street in New York.

The Roger E. Joseph Prize is an international award given annually to an individual or organization which, by virtue of religious and moral commitment, has made a distinctive contribution to humanity. The Joseph Prize was established by Burton M. Joseph of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a prominent businessman and a leader in human rights, along with his wife Geri, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, and his sister, Mrs. Betty Greenberg. It was created to honor the memory of their brother, Roger Joseph. Previous recipients of the $10,000 award include Victor Kugler, who gave refuge to Anne Frank and her family; Helen Suzman, the South African anti-apartheid activist; Rosa Parks, the mother of the modern American Civil Rights movement; the village of Le Chambon, which gave refuge to Jews and Christians fleeing the Nazis during the Holocaust; posthumously to Johan Jorgen Holst, for facilitating the Middle East Peace Accords; and The Center for Victims of Torture and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture.

Morris Dees Jr., presently the Chief Trial Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, was born in 1936 in Shorter, Alabama, the son of a Baptist cotton farmer and gin operator. Dees Jr. graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law in 1960. Eleven years later, with Joseph J. Levin Jr. his law partner, he founded the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Since then the Center has handled numerous legal cases that changed the face of the South and the nation. Some lawsuits have reached the U.S. Supreme Court and many have resulted in landmark rulings. Starting in 1991 as an extension of their legal work, they began the Teaching Tolerance program, dedicated to helping teachers across the nation foster respect and understanding among their students.

For further information please contact: 
Susan Ludmer-Gliebe, Publicist 
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
1 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012-1186 
212-824-2253


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu