In light of Chabad’s work around the world, the Katz Prize was awarded by Israeli President Isaac Herzog and received by Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky on behalf of the Shluchim.
On behalf of the six thousand Chabad Shluchim worldwide, Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky accepted the prestigious Katz Prize last week at a ceremony hosted by Israeli President Isaac Herzog. After recent events in Ukraine brought Chabad’s work to public attention, the prize recognizes Chabad’s six thousand Shluchim for enabling Halachic observance worldwide.
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 wrote in a statement, “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.”
Established in 1975, the Marcos and Adina Katz Prize recognizes individuals and institutions who help navigate halachic complexities that arise in modern life. “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 a leading Halachic author and Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Haim Sabato, chose to present the award to the Chabad Shluchim.
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.”
Although the Katz foundation said they “could have awarded Chabad any year,” Chabad’s high-profile work in response to the Ukraine War 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.
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 shared with Rabbi Kotlarsky their pride in presenting the award to Chabad. “The genuine appreciation and admiration for the Shluchim expressed by the Katz family, the committee members, and President Herzog was heartwarming.” Rabbi Kotlarsky said.
On hand to accept the award was Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky of Chabad Headquarters, who in turn represented his father, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice-Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch. “I am here on behalf of the six thousand shluchim in one-hundred and twenty nations throughout the world,” he said at the award ceremony, held in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem. Joining Kotlarsky were 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.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog was present and 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.