Jakob Herz Prize 2016

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Photo: S. Schnetz

Solemn prize giving ceremony and successful birthday party

After its inauguration in 2009, the Jakob Herz Prize was awarded for the 4th time on Friday 12, 2006. On the occasion of the bicentenary of Jakob Herz’s birth, many prominent representatives of the Jewish community attended the ceremony. Not only the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. J. Schüttler, the President of the FAU, Prof. Dr. J. Hornegger, the Mayor of Erlangen, Dr. F. Janik, and the Parliamentary Undersecretary of Federal Ministry of Education and Research, S. Müller, welcomed the guests, but also the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dr. J. Schuster gave a welcome speech.

200 years of Jewish history in Erlangen

The speeches focused on different aspects ofJakob Herz’ life and work. Born in 1816 in Bayreuth, Jakob Herz studied medicine in Erlangen and became the first Jewish professor in Bavaria in recognition of his work as a physician, researcher, and teacher at the Faculty of Medicine and at the university hospital. In 1871, he died at the age of only 55 as a consequence of his tireless commitment to his patients. In 1867, he was not only the first Jew to be appointed honorary citizen by the city of Erlangen, but also the first Jew for whom the city raised a monument in 1875 at the Hugenottenplatz. This monument was destroyed by order of the National socialist city council in 1933. In 1983, a new monument was erected for Jakob Herz at the corner Universitäts-/Krankenhausstraße.

These controversial reactions, esteem and resentment, that Jakob Herz experienced throughout his life and that continued even after his death, can be considered exemplary of how Jewish scholars were treated in the 19th century.

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany took the opportunity to plead for more tolerance towards people belonging to other religions. The President of the FAU pointed out the responsibility of the university to enable its students to question decisions by common sense. The Dean emphasized the importance that the Faculty of Medicine accounts for the past and is aware of possible discrimination, especially in the light of the current refugee problems. The Mayor is happy about the smooth and lively intercultural and inter-religious dialogue in Erlangen, which he attributes in part to the Jewish community – and pleads not to consider religious diversity an insurmountable obstacle, but to focus on the person in everyday life and work – just like Jakob Herz did.

All speakers appreciated how Erlangen, FAU, and the Faculty of Medicine have dealt with this dark chapter of their past and uttered hope that people of different faiths and minorities are treated with increasing respect and tolerance, as expressed in an old Jewish commandment:

Tikkun OIam – Make the world a little bit better!

Professor Fred H. Gage this year’s awardee

The Jakob Herz Prize is awarded biannually for individual achievements in research as well as lifetime achievements by the Faculty of Medicine together with the Research Foundation of Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen. Professor Dr. F.H. Gage, Director of the Gage Lab, a laboratory of genetics at the renowned Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and holder of the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Diseases at the Department of Neurosciences of the University of California in San Diego, meets both criteria. His groundbreaking discovery that the adult human brain still generates new neurons not only revolutionized research, but opened up completely new therapeutic options for the treatment of cerebral diseases or damages. Until today, Professor Gage has published his scientific findings in more than 700 papers.

Jakob-Herz Schule presents collage

The gala was framed musically by the Martina Eisenreich quartet, an ensemble that impressed the audience by its charismatic performance, and artistically by projections of artworks from pupils of the Jakob Herz School. The Jakob Herz School (formerly: school for patients) teaches children and young adults during longer periods of hospitalization at the Universitätsklinikum. Within the framework of an art project, 12 pupils used different styles and techniques to create a collage depicting the logo of Erlangen and the bronze statue of Jakob Herz that the citizens of Erlangen first raised and then destroyed.