Richard and Phyllis Franco will be honored Tuesday with the New Israel Fund Atlanta’s second annual Tzedek Award.
NIF is one of the leading organizations trying to advance, as well as defend, democracy in Israel. Since its inception in 1979, NIF has funded almost 1,000 grassroots initiatives with more than $300 million. Among the causes the NIF supports are human rights issues, equal rights and adoption rights, and rights for gay and lesbian Israelis.
With the Tzedek award, the NIF seeks to honor those who have demonstrated exemplary service in those areas and others.
Tzedek, Hebrew for justice, is at the heart of the organization and those it honors, said Shai Robkin, chair of the NIF Atlanta Regional Council. “Justice is something we pursue day in and day out,” he said. “And this award is given to a person who has demonstrated the kind of human qualities we think appropriate for those values.”
Last year’s recipient was Janice Rothschild Blumberg, widow of The Temple’s former Rabbi Jacob Rothschild and known for her leadership in the civil rights movement. This year, the NIF selected the Francos partly because “they reflect that kind of quiet justice we should all have,” Robkin said. “They may not be well known to the average person, but among Atlantans pushing for issues within civil liberties and equality, they’re massive contributors. That famous word, mensch? That’s what the Francos are.”
Richard Franco is a respected neurologist, and Phyllis Franco had a lifelong career as a professional artist, noted for her stained-glass windows. The couple is known for having deep identification and commitment to both Judaism and Israel, and they have vested interests in foreign policy and foreign affairs. Lois Frank, NIF Atlanta Regional Council member, has known the couple for 50 years, since their time at Emory together. “Both were brilliant students, then and now,” she said.
“They are lovers of literature and art, music and nature. Their humanity prevails across culture, race, religion and age. The Francos are loyal and treasured friends to all who know them, and their support for NIF is a profound expression of regard for its mission of building a pluralistic, just, and Democratic society in Israel.”
The program honoring the Francos will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Ahavath Achim Synagogue. In addition to honoring the couple, the event will also feature Shira Ben-Sasson Furstenberg, associate director of the NIF in Israel, in conversation with Atlanta’s Dr. Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory University’s Center for Ethics. The event is free, but guests are encouraged to consider joining the NIF’s honoree committee by making a minimum gift of $500 to honor the Francos as well as support NIF’s mission.
“This is a great opportunity for people to learn about NIF,” Robkin said. “The NIF is the single leading organization in Israel that supports civil society. They speak for the powerless. If you’re looking for a worthwhile organization in which to put your funds and your support, know that the NIF truly makes Israel a better place.”