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Torchbearers Award Ceremony by the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative

April 3, 6 pm8 pm.

Sarina Roffé
[email protected]

BJHI Announces Torchbearers Award
Honoring Four Organizations

BROOKLYN, NY, March 14, 2024, The Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative (BJHI) today announced the 4 Honorees who will be awarded the BJHI Brooklyn Jewish Torchbearer Award. The award recognizes leading Brooklyn organizations that have truly made a difference in the world. BJHI was created to document the stories, culture and accomplishments of Jewish Brooklyn. The organizations being honored are

The Bridge Multicultural Advocacy Project
Brooklyn Region Hadassah
Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews
East Midwood Jewish Center
The evening ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 3 from 6-8 PM at the East Midwood Jewish Center on 1625 Ocean Avenue (Ave K and L) in Brooklyn, a wonderful space.  It can easily be reached by taking the Q train to either Ave J or Avenue M and walking a few blocks. A reception with food and beverages will follow. There is no fee to attend but an RSVP is required.
Preregistration is on eventbrite.com. Go to brooklynjewish.org for the registration link or visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bjhi-2024-brooklyn-jewish-torchbearers-award-tickets-829280930587

The Bridge Multicultural Advocacy Project

Mark Meyer Appel, who has dedicated his life to public service, founded The Bridge Multicultural Advocacy Project in Brooklyn with an important message of Unity through Action, and the organization has lived up to its mission over these years.

Because there are so many divisions in our society, The Bridge has become a place that people of all backgrounds have been able to come together, sharing who they are in words and in activities, and act on their voiced intentions.  As they say it, ” We can no longer live in a society where crime, guns, and violence is status quo; where our schools and justice system is in shambles; where our constitutional rights to live in a nation is under siege.”

BJHI has selected The Bridge for our Torchbearers Award, honoring this organization and their Founder who have really made a difference by bringing people together.

Brooklyn Region Hadassah

Brooklyn Region Hadassah is being honored for their work in creating and continuing its health care agenda. In the early 20th Century Brooklyn hospitals were organized around the idea of healthcare for women.

Henrietta Szold, who founded Hadassah in 1912, raised awareness after a 1909 trip to Palestine, where she saw that Jews living in camps without proper plumbing or sanitation. Horrified by the impact starvation and disease had on her people, she took action. She was particularly concerned about healthcare for mothers, and their ability to nurse their babies.

Back in Brooklyn, she raised money to send nurses to Israel to help the women, and educate them about cleanliness. The Brooklyn organization flourished and now, more than 100 years later, Hadassah is a worldwide organization with hundreds of chapters. Today, Hadassah has two world-class hospital campuses in Jerusalem as well as youth villages created to save the children who left their homelands as the Nazis invaded Eastern Europe.

Today, Brooklyn Region Hadassah chapters continue this work by supporting health initiatives in Brooklyn, support for hospitals in Israel. In 2005, Hadassah Medical Organization earned a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for bringing advanced medical care to all, regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality, in essence creating a bridge to peace through medicine.

Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews

In the late 1980s, Dr. Ballas became the founding chair of the Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews in 1989-1994. He met with President George H. W. Bush, bringing the issue of Jews from Arab Lands to his attention so it was included on the American Foreign policy agenda. The Syrian born doctor came to New York in 1978 and raised awareness the persecution and treatment of Jews in his native Syria. Jews were severely restricted in their civil rights and not permitted to emigrate. Those who tried were severely punished and imprisoned.

After intense lobbying, the Council was successful in obtaining the release of over 4,500 Syrian Jews in April 1992 and again 1994. All of the immigrants came to New York to be settled with housing, jobs, English language classes and so much more. Over 900 children needed to be placed in yeshivot. Dr. Ballas took leave from his medical practice and took it upon himself to make sure that all 900 students were enrolled in Brooklyn yeshivot using a ‘sprinkling’ system. He worked with the schools to arrange tuition, raised funds and was able to place all of the students. He was President of Sephardic Community Services at Sephardic Bikur Holim from 1996-2002 and continues to work for the benefit of Syrian Jews.

East Midwood Jewish Center

East Midwood Jewish Center played an integral role in the lives of Brooklyn’s Jewish community by centralizing all things Jewish into its one building – a Jewish center. Now in its 100th year, East Midwood became the center of all things Jewish, a place to pray, party, socialize and send your children to school. East Midwood Jewish Center also offered adult education classes, children’s camps, after school activities, sports leagues,  swimming pools and exercise facilities, senior citizen activities, to name a few.

Brooklyn synagogues are important as the center of Jewish communities. For the first time, some immigrant Jews were living in heterogeneous communities and their children were exposed to anti-Semitism and other religions. Unlike Eastern Europe or the Middle East, where Jews only socialized with other Jews, immigrants were exposed to many different cultures. Inherent in the belief that Jewish continuity was dependent on nurturing an environment and culture consistent with Jewish values, the synagogue took on a much greater role for immigrants in the United States. As a result, while the synagogue was built for spiritual growth and prayer, it took on new roles. It was not only a place to pray, but a place to congregate, to celebrate life cycle events and social occasions.

BJHI honors East Midwood Jewish Center with the Torchbearers Award for its role in building Brooklyn’s Jewish community for the past century.


BJHI was created to tell the extraordinary story of the Jewish community of Brooklyn, and recognizes the leading Brooklynites who have truly made a difference in the world. Visit brooklynjewish.org for more information.