Martin Vegoda, Chairman and founding board member accepted the award on Monday 6th July at the Awards ceremony in London.
Wizo Commitment Award to Diversity and Tolerance was presented to Salaam Shalom for demonstrating exceptional commitment to fostering a culture of diversity and understanding. The award was presented by The Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust. www.memorialscrollstrust.org
Background: WIZO UK, one of the global WIZO Federations working in the field of social welfare, has an annual programme seeking nominations of individuals, organisations or communities who have constructively contributed to society. In 2015 Dr Madge Dresser, Associate Professor in History at UWE (the University of the West of England), nominated Salaam Shalom for a WIZO Commitment Award in the category, Commitment to Diversity and Tolerance.
Salaam Shalom was one of four finalists and the eventual winner of the Award, presented at a ceremony in London in July 2015. Helen Vegoda accompanied Martin Vegoda, currently Salaam Shalom Chair, to the ceremony, and wrote this account.
At the start of our visit to the WIZO Awards Ceremony, we were invited to a tour of the impressive and very moving Czech Memorial Scrolls Museum, housed on the top floor of Kent House, Knightsbridge. On display are a remnant of the 1,564 scrolls rescued in 1964, and brought to this country, before being distributed around the world. They symbolise the renewal of hope for the Jewish people after the Shoah of the Second World War. It was particularly poignant therefore that the award presented to Martin, on behalf of Salaam Shalom, was sponsored by The Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust, in recognition of Salaam Shalom’s work in the field of Diversity and Tolerance, one of the six categories designated for the Awards.
One of the Awards sponsors, Dr Nissim Levy, took up the theme of recognition for ‘outstanding people and organisations who have put their efforts into improving lives’. Citing the work of WIZO in Israel, he presented a picture of inequality and deprivation amongst Israeli society that is often hidden from wider view. Dr Levy emphasised that organisations like WIZO, and the kind of individuals who were honoured with awards on Monday night. make a huge difference in combating and challenging inequality for Jews and other groups across the world.
During the evening we were given snapshots of both the sponsoring organisations and the individuals and groups whom they had selected. The contribution to society ranged from the impressive sixteen year old Orli, who works with disadvantaged young people and raises funds for charity, to Avi, whose company educates children and their parents in water conservation.
Salaam Shalom was singled out as being unique in working to strengthen the ties between Jews and Muslims, and through their programme in schools to create greater understanding between diverse ethnic and religious groups. It was very gratifying to hear the promotion of Bristol as the place where such an initiative was started, and the due praise given both to Martin and to Salaam Shalom for dedicated commitment to this field.