Praises Reform Judaism's Modernity and Fidelity to Torah
Shimon Peres, the President of the State of Israel, was 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."
President Peres praised Reform Judaism for "its double-edged ability to be fully a part of the modern world while at the same time remaining faithful to the foundation of the Torah." He called for the partnership of scientific and intellectual endeavor at the highest level in Israel, adding that "the moral code of the Ten Commandments is essential to existence and to being in the forefront of innovation."
Ruth O. Freedlander, Co-Trustee of the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation, presented 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.