Nefesh B'Nefesh (NBN) handed out six awards to English-speaking olim (immigrants) in the Knesset Thursday, honoring their contributions to Israeli society.
Prize winners included Joseph Gitler, the founder of anti-hunger organization and food bank Leket Israel; Rebbetzin Malka Bina, founder of Matan College; Yossi Abramowitz, a leader in renewable energy; Professor Jeffrey Hosdorf of Tel Aviv University and Sourasky Medical Center; comic illustrator Ya'akov Kirschen; and lone soldier Nira Lee.
Each received $10,000 and a "Lifetime Achievement Award" was given to Ben-Gurion University's Professor Shimon Glick.
The award committee members included Lt. Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi; Ambassador and former MK Colette Avital; Ambassador Yehuda Avner; Dr. David Breakstone, vice chairman of the World Zionist Organization; Michael Eisenberg, Vera Golovensky, Senior Advisor to the Chairman of the Jewish Agency; and Prof. Jonathan Halevy, Director of Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
Nefesh B'Nefesh Co-founder and Exec. Dir. Rabbi Yehoshua Fass spoke at the proceedings, in the presence of several dignitaries and Knesset MKs.
"Last year, when we visualized the Bonei Zion award, we had three motivations in mind," he began. "First, we wanted prospective olim in the Diaspora to see that individuals can truly thrive, excel, succeed, and accomplish after their Aliyah. And through this award, our honorees will hopefully serve as an example for others to emulate and follow."
"Second, we wanted the greater Israeli public to see the impact and influence of the Anglo oleh population," he continued. "Although we only have one Knesset member [MK Dov Lipman - Yesh Atid - ed.] representing our demographic, the ripple effect of the Anglo population here in Israel is undeniably extraordinary."
"And third, simply hakarat hatov [trans. "showing gratitude" - ed.]. Our community, our schools, our surroundings, our health, and our culture have all been enhanced by the individuals being honored here today - and for that we owe each and every one of you our hakarat hatov."
Rabbi Fass then cited a midrash citing three examples of great deeds in the Torah that were not acknowledged or recognized immediately as they took place, but were later recorded as landmark events in the Bible. The midrash notes that had each person recognized that their deeds would have been honored for all eternity, each would have been done with even more alacrity and gusto.
The same principle, he said, applies to the series of steps Anglo olim have taken to better the Jewish homeland.
"In life, we all strive to achieve excellence - to make a difference, to make an impact," he said. "However, it is rare to be given the chance, to be given the chance, the gift to look back at the embroidery of our deeds and see the magnificent tapestry of our actions - let alone to be cognizant of the unique role we each play in creating our own masterpiece."
"Today we recognize the first annual Bonei Zion recipients, remarkable individuals with extraordinary accomplishments."