The B’nai B’rith World Center recognized the winners of the Award for Journalism Recognizing Excellence in Diaspora Reportage at Jerusalem’s Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on June 8 with Harvard University professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz serving as the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
Dershowitz is a world-renowned jurist and is universally recognized as one of Israel’s most ardent advocates in the court of world opinion. He addressed the award winners and those in attendance by answering tough questions on Israel, American Jewry, the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and U.S.-Israel relations in a conversation with Liat Collins, editor of the International Jerusalem Post and weekly columnist.
“Whenever I debate BDS, I always throw out the following challenge to my students all over the world,” Dershowitz said. “Name a single country in the history of the world faced with internal and external threats comparable to those faced by Israel that has ever had a better record in human rights; a better record with compliance of the rule of law; a better record of concern for civilians? I have been asking that question now for 20 years, probably to a million people around the world, and I’ve never gotten a single person even to stand up and name a country, because you can’t do it.”
B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Haim V. Katz started off the evening with opening remarks that touched on the big issues facing Israel and the Diaspora.
“There has not been a time when someone somewhere has not been planning to do substantial harm to the Jewish people. We now face the iniquitous, disgraceful big lie of the BDS movement and those who will tarnish Israel with the slur of blood libel,” Katz said. “As the Passover Haggadah says ‘Every generation the Jewish People are threatened with annihilation and God provide salvation.’ In every generation God has emissaries who assist the Jewish people in its distress. One of them is professor Alan Dershowitz who is like a pillar going before the camp, defending Israel and the Jewish people.”
Winners of the award, named for Wolf and Hilda Matsdorf, were Nadav Eyal, Channel 10’s chief international correspondent and Sam Sokol, Jewish World correspondent for the Jerusalem Post.
A Lifetime Achievement Award in memory of Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky was also presented to Kol Yisrael—The Voice of Israel Radio—for its long-running program “Searching for Missing Relatives” now edited and presented by Izi Mann. A special citation for contribution to Israel-Diaspora Relations through the arts was presented to acclaimed singer David D’Or, who performed for the audience.
Eyal received the award in the broadcast media category for his hour-long program “Hate,” broadcast on Channel 10 on Oct. 7, 2014. The program deals with rising anti-Semitism in Europe and was filmed on location in Germany, England and Greece. The broadcast also aired earlier in the year as a four-part mini-series during the station’s primetime news program.
“The connection between the Diaspora and Israel is to be found at the mystery and at the source of the relationship between Israel and the Jewish world. I am very grateful that you found my work worthy of this award. ‘Hate’ tried to ask the question: What stands behind the hate? What motivates the hate? Why is the virus of anti-Semitism so immune and what [are] its sources? To understand anti-Semitism you have to go to the instigators of the virus. So we went to the instigators of the virus. We went to the anti-Semites themselves. And the answer that we brought to our viewers are the lies. The lies in the words of the anti-Semites themselves. The small lie and the big lie that they apply [to] groups. The lie is the source of the racism… And we see how the racism is always paranoid; it is paranoid about everyone, not only toward Jews. This virus assumes mysterious assumptions about minorities and knows no bounds.”
The award in the print media category was presented Sokol for a series of nearly 30 articles published in the Jerusalem Post from May to December 2014 focusing on the fast-changing situation of Jews in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine.
“I’m very, very honored,” said Sokol after receiving the award recognizing his reporting in Ukraine. “It’s very humbling and really feels like a vindication that people have appreciated what I’ve done, and that’s really gratifying.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Kol Yisrael for its “Searching for Missing Relatives” program, inaugurated in 1945 to help Holocaust survivors track down missing relatives. The program was broadcast continuously until 1969 and was re-launched in 2000 by Yaron Enosh in a new format that included interviews and investigative reporting. Over the years the program, and its English print iteration “Seeking Kin” by Hillel Kuttler, have brought together hundreds of Jews across the globe, locating and reuniting with long-lost relatives, friends and neighbors. The show is now edited and presented by Mann, who accepted the award on behalf of the show.
“I feel it is a big honor, but primarily a great calling, to hold in my hand this watch of ‘Search for Missing Relatives’ because every day I have the sense that behind the microphone I am touching the fragments of history that were created as a result of the circumstances of the Holocaust,” Mann said. “But it is not only the Holocaust, because with all modesty I feel that in many cases I am able to bind these fragments that connect families and friendships that were shredded. The wounds of the Holocaust are still felt everywhere and especially now, when families are growing, the need to complete the missing past suddenly arises. Now, when the Jewish people have ceased to wander and are building its homeland we suddenly realize to what degree the roots are missing and now we are trying to complete them.”
Since its establishment in 1992, the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism has recognized excellence in reportage on contemporary Diaspora-Jewish communities and on the state of Israel-Diaspora relations today in the Israeli print and electronic media. The award is widely acknowledged in the media industry as the most prestigious prize in its field in Israel. Its goal is to help shore up the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora by recognizing excellence in Diaspora-related reportage appearing in the Israeli print, broadcast and web-based media. It was established in recognition of the important contribution the media can make toward strengthening the relationship between Israel and world Jewry—so essential for the resilience of both—by encouraging quality reportage on Diaspora communities and Israel-Diaspora relations.
The distinguished members of the award jury are: Chairman Asher Weill, publisher and editor of “ARIEL”– The Israel Review of Arts and Letters from 1981 to 2003; Yehudith Auerbach, professor in the School of Communication at Bar Ilan University; Eytan Bentsur, former Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general; Sara Frenkel, former Diaspora correspondent for Israel Radio and Lifetime Achievement Award winner in 2002; Shalom Kital, former director general of News Company and Channel 2; Gabriela Shalev, professor and chair of the Higher Academic Council at Ono Academic College, as well as a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations; and Bambi Sheleg, founder and editor-in-chief of Eretz Acheret, and a 2011 award winner.
The B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism is named for the late Wolf Matsdorf and his wife Hilda. Wolf was an editor of the B’nai B’rith World Center Journal “Leadership Briefing” and a journalist in Israel and Australia. Hilda was a pioneer in social work in both Australia and Israel. The Lifetime Achievement Award is named for Luis and Trudi Schydlowsky. The Award is made possible through donations from Daniel Schydlowsky, a professor and a member of the B’nai B’rith World Center International Board of Governors (Lima, Peru and Washington D.C.), and the Matsdorf family.