A major award - the Dr. Bernard Heller Prize
- has been conferred upon The Jewish Museum in Prague. Hebrew Union
College - Jewish Institute of Religion handed over the prize to the
Director of the Museum, Leo Pavlát, in Cincinnati, Ohio on 30 May. The
College, which established this annual prize to honour the memory of
Dr. Heller (1897-1976), a great scholar and humanitarian, was founded
in 1875 and is the oldest institution of Jewish higher education in
America and the intellectual centre of Reform Judaism. The College provides
professional courses for future rabbis, cantors and educators with a
Reform focus and offers graduate and post-graduate degree programmes.
The libraries of the College, comprising almost 700,000 volumes and
6,000 manuscripts, constitutes one of the largest repositories of Judaica
and Hebraica in the world. The College also maintains the American Jewish
Archives and is home to the Skirball Museum, which is one of the leading
Jewish museums in the US. Educational centres of the College are active
in New York , Los Angeles and Jerusalem.
Since its inception in 1990, the Heller Prize has been
conferred annually for work that contributes to the betterment of humanity.
The Prize carries an award of $10,000. Past recipients have historians
Serge Klarsfeld and Raul Hilberg, and diplomats Uri Lubrani, Dennis
B. Ross, Richard C. Holbrooke and Stuart Eisenstat. The Jewish Museum
in Prague is the first institution to be awarded the Heller Prize, recognition
for “the clarity of vision with which it has preserved the unique historical
material documenting the centuries of vibrant Jewish life in Bohemia
and Moravia and the destruction of European Jewry during the Shoah”.
It was further stated: “Principle repository for one of the most extensive
collections of Jewish art, silver and textiles, the Museum is today
an inspiring example of an institution governed by conscience and memory.
The Museum representing Jewish history and heritage is a vibrant symbol
of Jewish survival as an institution devoted to memory, scholarship
and education for future generations”.
Leo Pavlát, the Director of the Museum, received a tremendous
welcome from Hebrew Union College and was treated to an eventful programme
during which he was shown around the institution and introduced to its
leading representatives, including the Acting President Dr. Norman J.
Cohen, Dr. Paul M. Steinberg, and Co-Trustees of the Dr. Bernard Heller
Foundation, Ruth O. Freedlander and Beatrice Weidman. Both institutions
expressed the desire for close ties in the future.
The Dr. Bernard Heller Prize is a great honour for the
Jewish Museum in Prague as well as a commitment for all its future activities.
The Museum expresses its sincere thanks to Hebrew Union College - Jewish
Institute of Religion.