Maestro James Conlon Receives HUC-JIR’s Highest Honor: Roger E. Joseph Prize

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rabbi David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), awarded the 2013 Roger E. Joseph Prize to Maestro James Conlon at HUC-JIR/New York Ordination at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York on Sunday, May 5, 2013.

Rabbi David Ellenson stated, "It is a privilege to present HUC-JIR's highest honor, the Joseph Prize, to Maestro Conlon, in recognition of his efforts to raise public consciousness to the significance of works of composers whose lives and compositions were suppressed by the Nazi regime.  The Orel Foundation, which he created, is dedicated to giving attention to these composers with the performance of their works."

Maestro Conlon stated, "Almost by accident, I have been led to mission of discovery. Most of us who have spent lives in classical music had not known about the enormous volume of music composed by men and women who were marginalized, at best, and destroyed, at worst, during the time of the Nazi regime of the 1930s. To restore this music to its proper place in the repertory of classical musicians and their public is now my goal.  I've been fortunate to pursue and live this mission.  It is a life-long task.  Although I am honored to be amongst all of you today on this occasion, I accept this award not for myself, for what I have done, nor for what still must be accomplished.  I do so on behalf of all those composers who have been marginalized and, unbelievably, seventy years after those terrible events, have still not received the full recognition they deserve."  For the full transcript of Maestro Conlon's address, click here.

James Conlon is one of today’s most versatile and respected conductors. He has conducted virtually every major American and European symphony orchestra. Through worldwide touring, an extensive discography and videography, television appearances and guest speaking engagements, Conlon is one of classical music’s most recognized interpreters.

Conlon is concurrently Music Director of Los Angeles Opera, Ravinia Festival (summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Cincinnati May Festival (America’s oldest Choral Festival). He has served as Principal Conductor of the Paris National Opera (1995-2004); General Music Director of the City of Cologne, Germany (1989-2002), where he was Music Director of both the Gürzenich Orchestra-Cologne Philharmonic and the Cologne Opera; and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1983-1991). 

He has led more than 260 performances at the Metropolitan Opera since his first appearance there in 1976. He has appeared at Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Teatro del Opera di Roma. In the course of his career, he has conducted more than ninety operas and several hundred symphonic and choral works. 

Highlights in the recent past include his recently leading  a complete Mahler Symphonies cycle with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the first production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle in Los Angeles, and he is currently engaged in a three-year project honoring the centenary of the birth of Benjamin Britten culminating in 2013.

Conlon has devoted himself to extensive programming of the lesser-known works of composers supressed by the Nazi regime, and has created the OREL Foundation to provide a source of information on this subject. In 2007 he received the Crystal Globe Award from the Anti-Defamation League for championing these works and in 1999 he received the Zemlinsky Prize, for his efforts in bringing that composer's music to international attention.

Conlon has recorded for EMI, Erato, Capriccio, Decca, and Sony. He has won two Grammy Awards.

He was named Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, and in 2002, received France's highest distinction from then President of the French Republic Jacques Chirac: the Légion d'Honneur.

About the Joseph Prize and Previous Recipients

The Roger E. Joseph Prize was established thirty-five years ago by a generous gift from Burton M. Joseph, z''l, and his sister, Mrs. Betty Greenberg, in memory of their brother, a lawyer, World War II hero, and polio victim.  Although almost completely paralyzed, he resumed his law practice and advanced causes of social justice, inspired by his own exceptional personal courage and passionate devotion to principle and justice.

The first Joseph Prize was awarded in 1978, to Victor Kugler, who risked his and his loved ones’ lives to shelter Anne Frank and her family. Over the past thirty-five years, the Joseph Prize recipients have included:

  • The people of Le Chambon, a Huguenot village in France which rescued thousands of Jewish children during the Holocaust;
  • Helen Suzman, a leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa;
  • The Center for Legal and Social Studies, the most prominent human rights group in Argentina;
  • Rosa Parks, the “mother” of the American civil rights movement;
  • Vu Than Thuy and the Boat People SOS Committee, responsible for the rescue of thousands of Vietnamese refugees stranded in the South China Sea;
  • The First Congregational Church of Billings, Montana, and the Montana Association of Churches for their moral and spiritual conviction in combating prejudice and anti-Semitic hate crimes.
  • The Center for Victims of Torture and the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture;
  • Morris S. Dees, and the Southern Poverty Law Center;
  • The Humanitarian Law Center and Natasa Kandic for their courageous research and dissemination of the documentation of genocide in Kosovo;
  • Daniel Pearl, posthumously, and the Daniel Pearl Foundation, to honor the memory and mission of this inspiring and courageous journalist, of blessed memory, whose integrity was grounded in a commitment to justice and a love for humanity;
  • Jan Egeland, under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs at the United Nations, for rescue efforts in Darfurand around the globe;
  • Morris S. Dees, and the Southern Poverty Law Center;
  • The Humanitarian Law Center and Natasa Kandic for their courageous research and dissemination of the documentation of genocide in Kosovo;
  • Chaplain Mychal Judge, of blessed memory, and the City of New York Fire Department, for their heroic efforts to rescue and provide comfort on September 11th, 2001;
  • Daniel Pearl, posthumously, and the Daniel Pearl Foundation, to honor the memory and mission of this inspiring and courageous journalist, of blessed memory, whose integrity was grounded in a commitment to justice and a love for humanity;
  • Jan Egeland, under Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs at the United Nations, for rescue efforts in Darfur and around the globe; and
  • Father Patrick Desbois for devoting his life to confronting anti-Semitism, furthering Catholic-Jewish understanding, and preserving Holocaust memory.

Click here to view the National Graduation and Ordination press release.


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