One of the key founders of Jewish Studies in the North American academy, Ruth Wisse has taught generations of students at McGill and Harvard Universities, and for the last decade, at the Tikvah Fund. Her achievements as a scholar of literature and East European Jewish civilization capture the whole of the modern Jewish mind, in all its richness and depth. But she is more than a teacher and a scholar. Ruth Wisse has also bravely stood up for the Jews and the Jewish state in the arena of public debate. For her career as a writer, teacher, and courageous defender of Israel against its enemies, Ruth Wisse is this year’s Herzl Prize laureate. After a moving introduction from her long-time colleague and the chair of the Avi Chai Foundation, Mem Bernstein, Ruth Wisse delivers her Herzl Prize address, focusing on what she’s learned about Jewish politics and Jewish power from Theodor Herzl.

Ruth Wisse

Recently retired from her position as Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard, Ruth Wisse is currently Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Dr. Wisse’s books on literary subjects include an edition of Jacob Glatstein’s two-volume fictional memoir, The Glatstein Chronicles (2010), The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Literature and Culture (2003), and A Little Love in Big Manhattan (1988). She is also the author of two political studies, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (1992) and Jews and Power (2007). Her latest book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, a volume in the Tikvah-sponsored Library of Jewish Ideas, was published by Princeton University Press.

Mem D. Bernstein

Mem Dryan Bernstein—venture philanthropist—is the Chairman of The AVI CHAI Foundation, a leader in Jewish education; and a trustee of both Keren Keshet (The Rainbow Foundation), whose signature project, Nextbook, promotes Jewish literature, culture, and ideas through the Jewish Encounters books series, and its website,; and the Tikvah Fund, which supports programs and projects that educate Jewish intellectual, political, and religious leaders in Israel and the Diaspora.