American Friends Shalom and Varda Yoran Honored with the Organization's Chairman's Award Monday, June 6, 2011
Special recognition for a philanthropic couple whose generosity of spirit has had far-reaching impact
Shalom and Varda Yoran
The Chairman's Award, created in 2008 by then-Chairman William F. Cohen to recognize exceptional dedication to Tel Aviv University and its American Friends, is not bestowed routinely. Until May 23, 2011, it had had only one recipient.
But as the final act of his second term of service, Bill Cohen chose to honor Varda and Shalom Yoran with the award. Referring to the couple as "role models for all the members of this organization," his respect, admiration, and affection were evident.
He read the award's inscription to warm applause from assembled members of AFTAU's Board of Directors, expressing appreciation for the Yorans' lifelong support for the State of Israel, their contribution as members of AFTAU's Board of Directors and Executive Council, and their commitment to the growth and success of Tel Aviv University.
A shared vision
Varda Yoran, AFTAU Chairman Jon Gurkoff, Chairman Emeritus Bill Cohen and Shalom Yoran
Accepting the award, Varda Yoran said she and her husband were very moved. With characteristic modesty, she observed that it was "nice to be acknowledged for something we wanted to do."
"Unlike other universities, TAU understood what we wanted to accomplish," she said, and a partnership was born. In 1988, the Yoran-Sznycer Research Fund in Jewish History was created, widely recognized today as a major resource in the area of Holocaust research, studies, and publications. It continues to award annual scholarships and produce significant academic research projects, including books, papers and analyses that have led to important breakthroughs in the field.
The long list of Tel Aviv University programs and projects that they subsequently sponsored includes the Shalom and Varda Yaron Institute for Genomic Research, and the Varda Yoran Art Catalog Fund.
Calling their relationship with the university by no means one-way, Varda Yoran said, "We benefited a lot. We made wonderful friends. We saw Petra with them, watched the United Nations honor Israel, heard Yo-Yo Ma in concert, attended stimulating events and fascinating lectures, and so much more."
A remarkable couple
Shalom Yoran-Sznycer was a key figure in developing Israeli Aircraft Industries in Israel, and served as chairman of a private commercial aircraft company in New York City until his retirement in 2003. He is the author of The Defiant, which recounts his escape from the Nazis who murdered his parents in Poland, and his teenage years fighting alongside Soviet partisans in the forests of Eastern Europe in World War II. The Yorans' friend Elie Weisel calls the memoir an important contribution to Holocaust remembrance.
Varda Yoran, an accomplished sculptor who works in stone, wood, clay, wax, and Lucite, has participated in numerous group shows and solo exhibits around the world. The first twenty years of her life were spent in China where she was born to Jewish parents who had emigrated from Russia. Her lifelong exposure to a conglomerate of cultures — Chinese, Russian, English, Jewish, Japanese — can be felt in her art. TAU has been the recipient of several of her striking sculptures including the 11-foot granite "Tai Chi" and the 6-foot bronze "Holocaust and Revival."
A warm partnership
The Tel Aviv University family greatly values the couple's friendship.
In 1998, Shalom Yoran-Sznycer was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, TAU's highest honor, for his longstanding contribution to Holocaust remembrance and social causes in Israel and abroad. He has served as Vice Chairman and Secretary/Treasurer of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University, and is today a Governor of Tel Aviv University.
Varda Yoran received an honorary fellowship at Tel Aviv University in 2004 recognizing her involvement in the arts, her work as a sculptor, and her partnership with her husband in initiating important projects at the university in biological research, Jewish studies and the arts.
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