Yotam Polizer, CEO of Israeli humanitarian aid organization IsraAID, has won the 2023 Charles Bronfman Prize. The annual award is presented to a humanitarian under the age of 50 whose work, informed by Jewish values, has significantly impacted the world.
He pledged to dedicate the $100,000 prize prize to the entire IsraAID team, and the communities the organization supports.
Polizer, 39, first joined IsraAID as a volunteer in 2011, leading the organization’s relief mission to Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that left 20,000 people dead.
Polizer soon became the organization’s second full-time employee, leading emergency missions to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, Sierra Leone during the 2014 Ebola crisis, Nepal following the 2015 earthquake, and Greece and Germany during the 2015 Mediterranean Refugee Crisis.
He became co-CEO in 2017 and global CEO in 2019. In 2021, he led the complex evacuation of 205 vulnerable refugees from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover of the country.
“I’m humbled and thrilled to join the incredible family of Charles Bronfman Prize winners,” said Polizer. “It is truly an honor, not just for me but for the entire IsraAID team and the incredible communities that we work with.”
Above all, IsraAID’s work is about community. Our team members have dedicated their lives to supporting communities in moments of crisis, working together to rebuild, and fostering resilience in the face of future challenges. We strive to provide immediate relief as soon as a disaster strikes. Then we build relationships with the local community and provide support throughout the recovery phase – wherever we are needed, however long it takes.”
Since Polizer became CEO, the organization has more than doubled its budget and grown its global team, expertise and impact. As of January 2023, IsraAID has responded to crises in more than 60 countries.
In 2020, IsraAID launched a global emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since February 2022, IsraAID has been engaged in the organization’s largest humanitarian relief operation to date in the wake of the war in Ukraine.
IsraAID’s Chief Humanitarian and Resilience Officer, Naama Gorodischer, said, “Yotam never asks our colleagues to do anything he isn’t willing to do himself. Under his leadership, we have had the courage to be at the forefront of aid, in the most challenging circumstances, and address emergencies that are often neglected. He leads by example, and that humbleness and commitment to genuine relationships foster an organizational culture that puts communities first.”