By COLlive reporter
The Marcos and Adina Katz Prize, which recognizes individuals and institutions who help navigate halachic complexities that arise in modern life, was awarded its prize to Chabad at a ceremony recently hosted by Israeli President Isaac Herzog at his official residence in Jerusalem.
The prize committee recognized Chabad for the Shluchim’s tireless efforts to enable Jewish observance in remote places. “Young Chabad couples leave their families behind, they move to unknown lands, often to places with no kosher food and no mikvah, purely out of their sense of responsibility for their fellow Jews,” they wrote in a statement.
“Halacha never changes,” explains Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel and a previous Katz Prize recipient, “but the world constantly does. Mordechai Marcos Katz asked, ‘how do you reconcile a changing world with eternal Halacha?’”
This year, the former president of Hebrew University, Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, former Dayan Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky, and leading Halachic author and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Haim Sabato, chose to present the award to the Chabad Shluchim.
Although the Katz Foundation said they “could have awarded Chabad any year,” Chabad’s high-profile work in response to the war in Ukraine caught the committee’s attention.
“Recently,” they wrote, “the whole world discovered the greatness of Chabad. The Shluchim live out the worlds of Hillel, “seek peace, love people, and bring them close to the Torah.” The foundation contributed the $25,000 prize towards the Keren Hashluchim fund distributed to Shluchim in need.
In addition to Shluchim’s Halachic contributions in various areas, the committee noted their heroism. “The Shluchim welcome everyone and treat them with warm hospitality comparable to that of Avraham Avinu,” they wrote. “They serve as a sympathetic ear to young people who have lost their way, are searching for meaning.”
A lifelong supporter of Jewish causes, Mr. Marcos Katz, fled the Nazis and settled in Mexico as a young man. He headed dozens of projects, opened a yeshiva, and created the Katz Prize to bridge Halacha and the modern world. He passed away in 2016 at age 89.
The Katz family was present at last week’s ceremony and met with Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, Director of Merkos 302, a division of Merkos L’inyonei Chinuch at Lubavitch Headquarters – 770 Eastern Parkway in New York. He received the prize on behalf of the Shluchim and his father, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chair of Merkos.
“I am here on behalf of the 6,000 Shluchim in 120 nations throughout the world,” Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky said. “The genuine appreciation and admiration for the Shluchim expressed by the Katz family, the committee members and President Herzog was heartwarming.”
Joining him were Shluchim Rabbi Shlomo and Rebbetzin Esther Wilhelm of Zhytomyr, Ukraine, and Rabbi Sholom Ber Hertzel of the Golan Heights, representing Shluchim in Israel and the Diaspora, respectively.
President Herzog said he was honored to pay witness to Chabad’s award. “It’s a privilege to host those who literally put Halacha into maaseh,” he said.