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

Professor Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Comparative Literature Emerita at Harvard and distinguished senior fellow at Tikvah. She is a winner of the National Jewish Book Award and was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush. Professor Wisse’s books include The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Literature and Culture, Jews and Power, and No Joke: Making Jewish Humor. Her memoir, Free as a Jew: A Personal Memoir of National Self- Liberation was published last year. She is the editor or co-editor of numerous anthologies, including The I.L. Peretz Reader and The Best of Sholem Aleichem (with Irving Howe). Her essays on Jewish literature, culture, and politics have been published in Mosaic, the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and the Jewish Review of Books.

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.