By Brian Zumhagen
HIAS was among the recipients of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies’ Avicenna International Award for Intercultural Cooperation for Peace. The London-based AISS presented this year’s award to Jewish non-governmental organizations that provided critical support for the resettlement of Afghans displaced after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in 2021. The Jewish Federations of North America and World Jewish Relief were also honored alongside HIAS.
Accepting the award on behalf of HIAS at a ceremony in London on June 26, HIAS+JCORE Executive Director Rabbi David Mason said the organization’s efforts on Afghan resettlement represent not only HIAS’ values, but also the values of “a Judaism that doesn’t stay inside and only care about itself and its people — a Judaism that looks outside as well and cares about others. This is a Judaism that feels a deep sense of responsibility,” he said.
When Kabul fell nearly two years ago, Mason continued, HIAS was able to put those values into practice “in an incredibly deep way, with organizational support and advice, frontline support for resettlement of Afghans, and deployment of staff to places of need, as well. And this impacted on thousands of people. This all makes me so proud to be Jewish today,” the HIAS+JCORE executive director told the assembled guests.
Rabbi Mason was joined by keynote speaker Dr. Shirin Ebadi, who discussed the importance of compassion and solidarity beyond borders. This is a spirit that she said was exemplified by the event itself, which brought together Jewish, Muslim and Christian guests for an evening not only of speeches, but also of celebration, including Afghan musical performances and dance.
The Avicenna Peace Award honors distinguished individuals, institutions, initiatives, and projects. It advocates dialogue, intercultural exchange, mutual coexistence, and non-violent approaches. It is named for the Islamic philosopher Avicenna, who AISS calls the “most significant philosopher in the Islamic tradition and arguably the most influential philosopher of the pre-modern era.”