Among the winners of the new “Jerusalem Unity Prize in Memory of Eyal, Gilad & Naftali” are Rabbi Nechemya Wilhelm and Nechama Dina Wilhelm, who have served as co-directors of Chabad of Bangkok-Ohr Menachem in Thailand for the past 20 years. The prize pays tribute to those who are committed to unifying efforts within the worldwide Jewish community.

It is also named for and honors the memory of the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped and killed last summer before the start of the war with Hamas in Gaza: Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.

Bangkok’s Chabad House sees 100,000 visitors from around the world pass through its doors annually, offering Jewish tourists free services, such as Shabbat meals, a place to sit and relax, Internet accessibility and local information, and even aid in times of crisis. The rabbi and his wife started their shlichus there in 1995.

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“A couple of days ago,” said Wilhelm last month, “I received an exciting phone call from the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, who notified me that the prize committee for the Jerusalem Unity Prize had awarded our activities promoting Israeli unity. It was very exciting.”

“But I feel that this prize really belongs to the Lubavitcher Rebbe [Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory], who established our shlichus [mission], and to the endeavors of the thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the world who undertake it. This prize is for my wife, our children, and for all of the emissaries who work here in Thailand under the leadership of head shaliach Rabbi Yosef Kantor,” he said.

“And, of course, this prize is for the more than 2 million guests who have come through our Chabad House in the past 20 years, and who consistently have proven that you can put aside differences in your outlook to reveal the pintele Yid [Jewish essence] that exists in all of us.”

Rabbi Nechemya Wilhelm, third from left, with staff at the Chabad House in Bangkok, Thailand, which sees 100,000 visitors from around the world pass through its doors annually, offering Jewish tourists a place to relax, Internet accessibility, Shabbat meals and even aid in times of crisis.
Rabbi Nechemya Wilhelm, third from left, with staff at the Chabad House in Bangkok, Thailand, which sees 100,000 visitors from around the world pass through its doors annually, offering Jewish tourists a place to relax, Internet accessibility, Shabbat meals and even aid in times of crisis.

The other winners were Brig. Gen. (res.) Ram Shmueli; Israeli composer and poet Rabbi David Menachem; and Re’aya and Yossi Apner.

The Jerusalem Unity Prize is a joint initiative between the families of the three Israeli teens, together with the Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and the Gesher organization. It will be awarded annually in June on the anniversary of the teens’ murder.

The intrinsic goal of the 300,000 shekel prize, which is divvied up between the winners, is to acknowledge the efforts of both organizations and individuals in and outside of Israel who work to advance unity throughout Jewish communities and Israeli society, both in times of duress and in everyday life.

Wilhelm has served as director of Chabad of Bangkok-Ohr Menachem in Thailand for 20 years. The Jerusalem Unity Prize pays tribute to those committed to unifying efforts within the Jewish community.
Wilhelm has served as director of Chabad of Bangkok-Ohr Menachem in Thailand for 20 years. The Jerusalem Unity Prize pays tribute to those committed to unifying efforts within the Jewish community.
The prize is named for and honors the memory of the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped and killed last summer before the start of the war with Hamas in Gaza: Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.
The prize is named for and honors the memory of the three Israeli teenage boys who were kidnapped and killed last summer before the start of the war with Hamas in Gaza: Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel.