Karen Tal, the principal of the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, is the recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize for 2011.
The annual prize, which carries a $100,000 award, goes to a young humanitarian whose work is informed and fueled by Jewish values and has broad, global impact that can potentially change lives.
Tal’s school in southern Tel Aviv serves students of foreign workers, Jewish and Arab Israelis of low socio-economic backgrounds, new immigrants from such places as the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, and refugees from Darfur, Sudan, Eritrea and other countries. A documentary film about the school, “Strangers No More,” won a 2011 Academy Award for best documentary short subject.
The once failing school, which now has 800 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, has become a closely watched model for improving students’ lives and outlooks, strengthening and supporting families, advancing assimilation and socialization into Israeli society, and changing social and cultural attitudes toward respect of the other.
The Morocco-born Tal, 46, has devoted her life to education. She was an education officer in the Israel Defense Forces’ Air Force Technical School, and served as principal of Tel Aviv’s Shevach Mofet High School, helping to make it a highly regarded science and technology-focused school attracting many students from immigrant families. She became principal of Bialik-Rogozin in 2005.
“Aspiring to create a world in which social justice, opportunity, and empowerment apply to those at the lowest and most disadvantaged rungs of society—often overlooked or deemed hopeless—is a historic driver for the Jewish people,” said James Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, and chairman and CEO of Wolfensohn and Company, on behalf of the prize judges.
“Through a unique and powerful educational model, Karen Tal teaches us all that by embracing and nurturing those most marginalized among us, we honor human dignity, strengthen societies and enlighten the world.”