Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel, will be awarded the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in a private ceremony at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Friday, November 2, 2007.
"President Shimon Peres's lifelong devoted leadership of the State of Israel and vision for a peaceful future in the Middle East are a source of inspiration and hope," said Rabbi David Ellenson, Ph.D., HUC-JIR President. "It is a privilege to honor his distinguished statecraft and commitment to the values of our tradition with the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize."
Ruth O. Freedlander, Co-Trustee of the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation, will present the award to President Peres, together with Rabbi Ellenson. The Dr. Bernard Heller Prize in Arts, Letters, the Humanities, and Religion is an international award presented to an organization or individual whose work, writing, or research reflects significant contributions in these areas. Previous recipients include Dennis B. Ross, Special Middle East Coordinator in the U.S. Department of State; Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, chief negotiator of the Dayton Peace Accords; Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and advocate for Holocaust restitution; and Count Folke Bernadotte, posthumously, for rescuing thousands in the concentration camps during the Holocaust.
The Dr. Bernard Heller Prize was established by the Co-Trustees of the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation to honor Dr. Bernard Heller's memory, life, and belief in the Jewish tradition. Dr. Bernard Heller was ordained at Hebrew Union College in 1949, served on the faculty as Visiting Professor of Jewish Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion at HUC-JIR/New York, was the Director of Restitution of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc., the agency charged with the restitution of cultural property seized by the Nazis from European Jewry and Jewish institutions, and served the only liberal Jewish congregation in India, the Progressive Union of Bombay. Dr. Heller pursued his interests in business as one of the founders of the predecessor to the United Brands Corporation and the West Indies Investment Company in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem was established in 1963 as the first liberal institution of Jewish studies in Israel and prepares the leadership for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and for the Reform Movement worldwide. Its academic programs include the Israel Rabbinic Program; the newly established M.A. Program in Pluralistic Jewish Education, in conjunction with the Melton Center for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is designed to provide educational leaders with tools to promote Jewish pluralism; the Year-In-Israel Program for HUC-JIR's stateside first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students and first-year rabbinical students from the Leo Baeck College in London, England, and the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany, for Hebrew language immersion, foundational text skills, Israel studies, and the fostering of lifelong ties with the people and land of Israel; and the Israel Seminar for stateside communal service students, an intensive introduction to Israel's communal institutions and organizations.
Supporting these programs are the campus's research centers and academic resources, including the Department of Education and Professional Development, offering training courses in cooperation with the TALI Fund and the IMPJ's Education Department; the Early Childhood Center – The Sadna, providing Jewish educational modules and materials for the IMPJ's network of pre-schools and the elementary school systems of Israel; the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling and its Mezorim Program, training rabbis and health care professionals as spiritual counselors to establish this pioneering field in Israel; the S. Zalman and Ayala Abramov Library, housing 50,000 volumes of Hebraica, Judaica, Near Eastern Archaeology, and the Dr. Fritz Bamberger Spinoza Collection, microfilms from the American Jewish Archives, and the Archive of Israeli Reform Judaism; and the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology and HUC-Skirball Center for Biblical and Archaeological Research and Museum, exploring Israel's ancient past and offering community-based educational projects/excavations ad Lod and Givat Sher.
HUC-JIR/Jerusalem offers outreach programs to North American college and high school students studying in Israel, and a broad array of community programs fromShabbat morning and holiday services at the Murstein Synagogue and Hebrew ulpan courses to summer educational seminars, archaeological digs, and lectures on new archaeological research, readings by well-known authors, symposia, and featured events, including Tikkun Leil Shavuot, concerts by the Hallel Community Choir, and the annual Yom HaShoah commemoration. The headquarters of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism are situated in Mercaz Shimshon-Beit Shmuel on the east side of the campus.