Linguist Prof. Aharon Maman is the winner of this year’s Israel Prize for the study of Jewish languages, literature and popular culture, Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday.
Maman joins Prof. Adi Kimchi, who was announced by Bennett last week as the Israel Prize winner for life sciences research.
Maman is the vice president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language and a member of the governing board of the World Union of Jewish Studies. In 2013 he was chosen president of the Society for Judeo-Arab Studies and in 2016 he was a member of the Biton Committee for the enrichment of the legacy of Sephardic, Middle Eastern and North African Jewry in the Israeli educational system.
The prize committee explained that, “Prof. Maman has a proven and clear international standing, as expressed by the many invitations he has received from the world’s leading research centers. … In the varied and broad field of Jewish languages it is hard to imagine the state of research without his comprehensive research approach and extensive work.”
Maman was born in Morocco in 1947 and immigrated to Israel when he was 16. He studied Hebrew language and Arabic language and literature at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he earned all his academic degrees. The university later sent him to do post-doctoral work in London, where he studied English at University College London and linguistics at the School of Asian and African Studies at the University of London. Upon returning to Israel he continued to teach at Hebrew University until he retired in 2016.
Kimchi was born in pre-state Israel in 1947 and studied microbiology at Tel Aviv University as part of the academic reserves. After finishing her master’s degree she served in the Israel Defense Forces as a Medical Corps officer. She earned a Ph.D. in microbiology from TAU in 1977. In 1982 she joined the faculty of the molecular genetics department at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
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From 2011 to 2013 she served as chairman of the professors’ council at Weizmann. She was a member of the Council for Higher Education and helped develop curricula for universities and colleges while working to strengthen the internationalization of Israeli higher education. Kimchi has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 2015, and works to encourage girls in junior high school to take STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses in partnership with the Young Israel Academy.
In its explanation for Kimchi’s award, the prize committee wrote that Kimchi “worked and continues to work to advance women in science by establishing and implementing various programs whose goal is to provide equal opportunities for female scientists at various stages of their academic careers. In this context she served for a number of years as the president’s adviser on advancing women in science, and during this period headed a national program to support outstanding women scientists so they could successfully do their post-doctoral work at leading institutions abroad.”
The committee noted that Kimchi is “known as a leader in the field of programmed cell death and how cells cope with emergency situations including autophagy pathways, major biological processes required for normal fetal development and maintaining the physiological balance of the tissues in the adult organism.”