The annual prize, which includes a $100,000 cash award, recognizes a humanitarian activist under the age of 50 whose work is informed by Jewish values and has had a global impact. While living in Israel on a fellowship from Yale Law School, Heller, 34, traveled to Jordan and met with Iraqi refugees suffering from hunger, poverty, and lack of access to health care who were seeking resettlement and protection. Upon returning to Yale, Heller co-founded IRAP to provide comprehensive legal representation for individual refugees seeking resettlement by pairing law students with experienced pro bono lawyers. Since 2008, IRAP has provided more than $10 million in legal aid annually to the most vulnerable refugees, including Iraqis and Afghans at risk for their work as interpreters with the U.S. military, children with medical emergencies, women who are survivors of domestic and sexual violence, survivors of torture, and LGBTI individuals whose lives are threatened.
"I am delighted to announce this year's award recipient, Becca Heller, our youngest-ever recipient," said Charles Bronfman. "Countless people have been helped by her tireless efforts, and I'm thrilled to recognize someone with such vision, aptitude, and a proven track record of success. My hope is that this prize will allow her to impact the lives of many more people on a global scale."
"I am honored to be the 2015 recipient of the Charles Bronfman Prize, an award that is a credit to the Bronfman family's commitment to Jewish values, innovation, and service," said Heller. "Of course, the award is a source of great personal pride, but more importantly, it provides an opportunity to shed light on one of the great moral and humanitarian crises facing our society — the plight of millions of refugees who live in despair, fear, and poverty, often without help and without hope. The Charles Bronfman Prize inspires me and everyone associated with IRAP to intensify our efforts to ensure that refugees around the world are treated with fairness, accountability, and respect for their basic human dignity."