For Immediate Release
Singer Etti Ankri and Rabbi Dr. Benny Lau
to Receive the Rabbi Marc and Dr. Henia Liebhaber z”l Prize
for Religious Tolerance in Israel for 2015 on June 9, 2015
The prize of $40,000 (to be shared equally) will be awarded at a ceremony
at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, June 2015
The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies has awarded the Liebhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance for a significant contribution toward the tangible achievement of religious pluralism and tolerance inIsraelfor 18 years, since 1997. Following the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, RabbiMarc Liebhaberz”l, a respected and well known leader of the North American Jewish community who recently passed away, and his wife Dr. Henia z”l, established the prize as an expression of their deep commitment to promoting Jewish tolerance and pluralism in Israel. The amount of the prize is $40,000. The candidate must exhibit a personal commitment to democratic principles and tolerance, integrated with basic Jewish values and ethics. The recipient is chosen by a public committee that judiciously reviews all recommendations.
Past prize recipients include leading public and educational figures such as author and philosopher Micah Goodman, musicians Ehud Banai, Kobi Oz, Yehoram Gaon, and Shlomo Gronich, media personalities Jacky Levy and Dov Elboim, writer Muki Tsur, journalist Bambi Sheleg, public figure Rabbi Michael Melchior, and others.
Etti Ankri has encouraged and developed Jewish-cultural dialogue in a creative and original manner for over three decades. The spiritual changes in her life, along with her devotion to the study of Jewish roots and tradition, are translated into a musical language that she shares with the public. Fusing emotion with creativity, the ancient Jewish past with the present, her music successfully facilitates meaningful artistic and social dialogue. In 2008, Ankri released "Songs of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi"- an album which brought new-found recognition to these ancient poems.
Receiving news of her receipt of the prize, Ankri responded: “The Baal Shem Tov taught: 'Your fellow is your mirror.' That is, if a religious person sees someone secular – it is him or herself. And if a secular person sees someone religious -- it is him or herself. An entire lifetime can be devoted to accepting the ‘other,’ which in essence means to accept yourself. Don’t we all encompass a little bit of everything which surrounds us? I have been privileged to encounter all types of Jews in my performances and throughout my life, and with each meeting, another stereotype is shattered. I know that I still have much to do in the realm of tolerance. I hope and pray that we will see the entire Jewish people coming together in unity.”
Rabbi Benjamin (Benny) Lau serves as the rabbi of the Ramban Synagogue Kehillah (community,) in Katamon,Jerusalem; is a fellow in the Israel Democracy Institute; and heads up the new project "Initiative 929 – for a shared reading of the Bible embracing diverse voices."
Rabbi Lau's prolific writings endeavor to take Biblical and Talmudic language and make it accessible to all; for in his view, many segments of Israeli society have become estranged from these Jewish sources, viewing them as distant and indecipherable. “Kehilat HaRambam”, a traditional community open to the rich diversity of communal life in which it resides, has become a role model for other communities throughoutIsrael. His lectures reach a wide audience and are delivered in a spirit of openness where all listen and all are heard-- facilitating an in-depth and honest encounter with the ancient sources.
"Tolerance, in its essence, is the knowledge that your worldview and beliefs are not those of all in your surroundings. This knowledge obligates one to allow other people to live according to their worldview and beliefs. In my opinion, the way to create a bridge between religious and secular is to create a “common living space” I am trying to create such a “space” through my books and through "The Bible Together - Initiative 929." Transforming biblical language into a common spoken one will bring depth to the dialogue, connecting all parts of Israeli society. Together we can create a feeling of unity which is not materialistic or frightened, but rather spiritual and ethical," said Lau on receipt of the Liebhaber Prize.
Rabbi Marc N. Liebhaber, who recently passed away at age 97, was a respected leader of the North American Jewish community, a former President of the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues (Masorti Olami) and Rabbi Emeritus of B’nai Emet Synagogue in St. Louis Park, MN, where he held a pulpit for many years. He and his beloved wife Henia, a respected physician who passed away in 2010, established the prize in 1996 as an expression of their deep commitment to promoting Jewish tolerance and pluralism in Israel.