Tel Aviv University's Constantiner Prize Awarded to Israel's Bina Center Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Annual prize in Jewish education nurtures "a creative home for the nation's soul"
Dr. Arturo Constantiner
TAU Rector Dany Leviathan, Bina Center Advisory Committee Chairperson Shay Huldai, and Dr. Arturo Constantiner
The Dr. Jaime Constantiner Prize in Jewish Education, awarded annually by Tel Aviv University, was presented on Monday, May 18, to the Bina Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture. The BinaCenter comprises a diverse group of intellectuals and educators who believe that secular Israelis should explore their Jewish roots in a pluralistic, analytical, and creative way as a means of repairing the world.
The award is given by TelAvivUniversity in honor of the late Dr. Jaime Constantiner for his contributions to Jewish education in the diaspora, mainly in Latin America. The prize, which is awarded yearly during the university's annual Board of Governors meeting, was presented at a ceremony at TAU’s Marcelle Gordon University Club.
Members of the Constantiner family and their honored guests attended the event, at which Dr. Arturo Constantiner, a TAU Governor and honorary doctor, said, “We gather here today to celebrate the gift that Tel Aviv University established to honor my father for his many contributions towards Jewish education. He always believed that education is the most important thing to maintain yahadut (Judaism) — to continue future generations of Jews."
Rejuvenating Jewish Identity and Creativity
Dany Leviathan, Rector of Tel Aviv University, acknowledged the generosity of the Constantiner family as well as the place of the BinaCenter in contemporary Israeli culture. Quoting from the prize certificate, he said, “The Dr. Jaime Constantiner Prize in Jewish Education recognizes the center’s endeavours over the last decade to rejuvenate Jewish identity among hundreds of students and educators throughout Israel; and its dedication to Tikkun Olam and to instilling a sense of Jewish values, community service and social justice among secular Israelis."
Rector Leviathan added that the prize was "awarded to Bina in recognition of the center’s work to rejuvenate Jewish values among secular Israelis and to promote cooperation and tolerance.”
The ceremony's featured speaker was Muki Tsur, a prominent Israeli writer and member of the Bina advisory board, whose presentation was titled "From Tarbut to Israeli Culture”. (The Tarbut movement was a Zionist network of Hebrew-language educational institutions in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars.) Mr. Tsur said, “The only way we can create values is not to be nostalgic, but to create values that people can transmit to each other.” He noted that Bina helps “to discover new dimensions in the creativity of this society.”
Shaping Values and Repairing the World
The prize will support the Bina center’s programs focusing on young adults as tomorrow’s leaders. In Israel, the mandatory army draft forces young people to face questions of identity, patriotism, and ethics at an early age. Bina helps them to learn about their Jewish heritage as they develop their personal identities and define their own roles as citizens of Israeli society.
At the same time, Bina’s programs aim to inspire a lifelong appreciation of textual study and social justice. The Center sees these values as essential to a compassionate, humanist national ethos — both Jewish and Israeli.
The Hebrew word “bina,” which means “wisdom,” is also a Hebrew acronym for “A Creative Home for the Nation’s Soul,” a term coined by Israel’s much-loved poet Haim Nachman Bialik.
Across the Generations
Arturo Constantiner is a dedicated friend of Israel and a long-time supporter of TelAvivUniversity — both core elements of a vibrant familial legacy. The Constantiner-Sourasky family's decades-long commitment has produced a number of major university projects.
TelAvivUniversity's Central Library is named for his grandfather, Elias Sourasky, whom TAU awarded an honorary doctorate in 1971. His father, Jaime Constantiner, was a leader in the movement to spread Jewish education throughout the diaspora, and served as Vice Chair of TAU's Board of Governors; he was made an honorary doctor by TAU in 1980. His mother, Joan Constantiner, played an important role in spreading Jewish culture throughout Latin America.
To honor their parents, the Constantiner brothers — Roberto, Arturo, Victor, Teodoro, and Leon — contributed to the School of Education, naming it The Jaime and Joan Constantiner School of Education. The Constantiner brothers are actively involved with the TelAvivSouraskyMedicalCenter (Ichilov), and continue to build on their family's passionate legacy of support for Jewish continuity and Jewish identity. In 2004, Arturo received the University’s highest award — an honorary doctorate degree — in recognition of his achievements and dedication.