Welcoming Immigrants: Charles Bronfman Prize to David Lubell of Welcoming America

“This is an evening devoted to welcoming,” declared Stephen Bronfman, co-founder of The Charles Bronfman Prize, which last night in New York celebrated “those who improve the world” and its award to David Lubell, founder of Welcoming America; which has enabled immigrants to be welcomed in 200 US communities.

Dan Meridor, former Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, who spoke on behalf of the international panel of judges that selects the recipients, noted that recent immigration has “awakened” xenophobia and racism, which “contradicts Jewish tradition to welcome the stranger.” Lubell, Meridor added, lives up to this tradition.

The Charles Bronfman Prize is an annual award of $100,000 presented to humanitarians under 50 whose innovative work informed by Jewish values has significantly improved the world. It was created by Charles Bronfman’s children as a surprise 70th birthday present in 2004.

After he received the Prize from Charles Bronfman, Lubell, who launched Welcoming International initiative and will move to Berlin to help integrate immigrants and refugees globally, noted, “There are 250 million immigrants and refugees in our world, more than any time in history and they are increasingly blamed for a host of society’s ills. This scapegoating of foreigners, paralleled by the growth of anti-Semitism, must be recognized and confronted,”

Yet there is reason for hope, Lubell said during a conversation with Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN’s  Fareed Zakaria GPS. Younger people now “experience more diversity,” particularly in their schools, than the older generation, so they have fewer concerns about immigration.

The second reason springs from Lubell’s experiences creating welcoming communities from the bottom up. “We prepare a fertile soil” that enables immigrants to be integrated and the long-term residents to resist the “demagoguery” against immigrants. “We see the success of local efforts spreading from city to city, and the “value of contact” between the two groups in “changing perceptions.”

Kasar Abdulla of Nashville, a native of Kurdistan of Iraq who became a refugee at six, lived in a camp in Turkey before settling in the US and who helped Lubell found Welcoming Tennessee, described her troubles resettling and how these contacts helped immigrants and long-term residents come together and thrive.

“Immigrants have made this country great,” Charles Bronfman says. “We must welcome those who come to our shores.”

Media Contact: Martin Irom, martinirom@gmail.com, 212-362-5260, 516-567-4348