The Charles Bronfman Prize Names Two 2010 Recipients
Jewish Humanitarian Award Honors Jared Genser for International Defense of Prisoners of Conscience; Sasha Chanoff for Rescuing and Resettling At-Risk African Refugees
New York – June 7, 2010 – In an unprecedented decision, The Charles Bronfman Prize today announced that two prizes will be given this year, each accompanied by a $100,000 award. Both recipients are being recognized for their outstanding accomplishments in the field of Human Rights: Jared Genser, Founder of Freedom Now, for his tireless defense of prisoners of conscience worldwide; and Sasha Chanoff, Founder of Mapendo International for his extraordinary efforts rescuing and resettling at-risk and forgotten African refugees.
The Charles Bronfman Prize recognizes young humanitarians whose work is inspired by personal values and is of universal benefit to all people. Its goal is to bring public recognition to individuals whose Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments, and provide inspiration to the next generations.
"Human rights have been a defining international aspiration since the Second World War, yet the gap between those aspirations and the reality has had tragic human consequences," said Prize Judge, The Honorable Madame Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada. "Human rights requires the meaningful implementation of its majestic values into the lives of real people, and these two exceptional men have devoted their lives to proving that it can be done."
Jared Genser is Founder and President of Freedom Now, a non-profit organization that works to free prisoners of conscience worldwide, and a partner in the government affairs group of DLA Piper LLP. He has successfully helped secure the release of prisoners from such countries as Burma, China, Egypt, Pakistan, and Vietnam by creating an innovative approach to human rights defense, combining legal, political, and public relations advocacy for each campaign. Currently, among other clients, he represents the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. Beyond his personal advocacy work, he has used his position at his law firm to leverage millions of dollars in pro bono legal support for important human rights causes.
According to Mr. Genser, "Pidyon Shvuyim – the redemption of captives – is regarded as one of the most important of all charitable acts, superseding all others forms. This mitzvah rabah, according to the Talmud, is central to who I am, keeping me engaged with the work itself and with my Jewish identity. To be recognized by The Charles Bronfman Prize for the unique place where Jewish values and humanitarian endeavor intersects, is a special honor for me."
Sasha Chanoff, Founder and Executive Director of Mapendo, has worked for over a decade in refugee rescue, relief and resettlement operations in Africa and the US. Mr. Chanoff has devised and implemented solutions to identify, rescue, and protect people fleeing from conflict and violence in Africa whose lives are in imminent danger and who fall outside existing humanitarian relief efforts. He has consulted with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kenya and worked with the International Organization for Migration throughout Africa, identifying refugees in danger, undertaking rescue missions and working on refugee protection and resettlement issues with the US, Canadian, Australian and other governments.
"I first learned what it meant to be a refugee from my Great Aunt Ida who escaped with her family from pogroms and persecution in Russia, and eventually resettled in the United States," said Mr. Chanoff. "The Jewish narrative is marked by cycles of human despair and spiritual redemption. This narrative is part of my cultural DNA and has greatly influenced my work around refugee rescue, relief, and resettlement, making my receipt of this award meaningful in a very personal way."
Charles Bronfman commented on the judges' selection of Mr. Chanoff and Mr. Genser: "There are some remarkable individuals who refuse to accept an unacceptable status quo and, through their brilliance and determination, redress the intolerable. Sasha Chanoff and Jared Genser are two such people. Each contributes outstanding passion and commitment to human rights in his own way."
Through Freedom Now, Mr. Genser represents and secures the release of individuals who are arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, and leads coalitions that focus international attention on the world's most repressive regimes. His work directly helps individuals in need, but the scope of influence is far greater, and focused on creating open societies.
The Honorable Irwin Cotler, Canadian Member of Parliament and Special Counsel on International Justice and Human Rights for the Liberal Party, spoke to this scope of influence in his nomination letter for Mr. Genser: "Perhaps just as important as Freedom Now's approach to freeing prisoners of conscience is that it intentionally selects cases representing a broader set of abuses in a country. In so doing, its advocacy is designed to have a much broader impact than the mere representation of one person."
To date, Mr. Chanoff has aided more than 10,000 refugees from Congo, Darfur, Somalia, Sudan, and other war-torn regions in Africa through the rescue and resettlement process, and ensured that the forgotten victims of persecution and atrocities are brought from danger to safety. He has quickly built Mapendo International from a concept into a respected and sought after global partner.
In his nomination letter for Mr. Chanoff, Sherman Teichman, Founding Director of Tufts University's Institute for Global Leadership stated: "Rather than simply building Mapendo's own operations, Sasha is using his organization's partnership relations with the US and UN Refugee Agency to affect fundamental change in the way refugee resettlement is handled altogether. This past fall, Mapendo and the UN Refugee Agency co-hosted a resettlement training for NGOs working across Africa, a landmark collaboration that intends to increase and broaden life-saving opportunities for refugees who live in perilous situations. In addition, Mapendo's work with the UN Refugee Agency at the Geneva level aims to strengthen refugee resettlement and protection globally through enhancing and supporting NGO and UNHCR collaboration. What all this means is that Mapendo International is now recognized as a model for how resettlement can be done and is exerting a multiplier effect on the process. This is the essence of social entrepreneurship."
On behalf of the Prize founders, Stephen Bronfman said: "By recognizing both Sasha Chanoff and Jared Genser, two extraordinary young men addressing human rights issues from different perspectives, the Prize is seizing an unprecedented opportunity to advance a broader agenda. While focused on different issues, their common objective is the promotion and protection of rights, their common strategy is visionary tenacity, and their common beneficiary is humanity. This is a significant opportunity to honor the finest in inspired Jewish and cosmopolitan values and ethics."
This is the sixth year that the Charles Bronfman Prize is being awarded. It was founded by Ellen Bronfman Hauptman and Andrew Hauptman together with Stephen Bronfman and Claudine Blondin Bronfman to honor their father. Previous recipients of the Prize are Jay Feinberg, Executive Director of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation; Dr. Alon Tal, Founder of Israel's Arava Institute for Environmental Studies; Dr. Amitai Ziv, Founder and Director of the Israel Center for Medical Simulation; Rachel Andres, Director of Jewish World Watch's Solar Cooker Project and Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, Co-Founders of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP).
About The Charles Bronfman Prize
The Charles Bronfman Prize is a humanitarian award that celebrates the vision and endeavor of an individual or team, 50 years of age or younger, whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world. Its goal is to bring public recognition to young, dynamic individuals whose Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments, and provide inspiration to the next generations. An internationally recognized panel of Judges selects the Prize recipient(s) and bestows an award of $100,000.
The Charles Bronfman Prize Foundation, a United States 501(c)(3) corporation headquartered in New York, administers the Prize. For more information about Charles Bronfman, The Prize or prior recipients and their accomplishments, please visit www.thecharlesbronfmanprize.com