NEW YORK – Although Israel is fighting a major war and the world has seen an explosion of antisemitism, the vast majority of Americans support Israel and stand by the Jewish people, World Jewish Congress President Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder told attendees of the organization’s dinner Thursday at the Museum of Modern Art.
“We are not alone. We are not alone,” he declared to the audience.
At the event, Amb. Lauder awarded WJC’s top honor, the Theodor Herzl Award, to The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, for being an outspoken opponent of antisemitism, a tireless supporter of Israel and a devoted friend of the Jewish people.
“His fight against antisemitism is a most articulate and enduring passion,” Amb. Lauder said, adding, “None of us could imagine that Israel would be attacked not by just by Hamas but by the rest of world. It makes our friends that much more important.”
The award celebrates individuals who work to promote Herzl’s ideals through international support for Israel and enhanced understanding of Jewish history, culture and peoplehood.
Mulroney led the Progressive Conservative Party in 1984 to the largest victory in Canadian history, becoming that nation’s eighteenth prime minister. He was re-elected in 1988, becoming the first Canadian prime minister in 35 years to win successive majority governments and the first Conservative prime minister in 100 years to have done so. He resigned in June 1993, having served almost nine years as premier.
His government introduced bold new initiatives such as the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Canada-U.S. Acid Rain Treaty and the Canada-U.S. Arctic Cooperation Agreement. His government played leading roles in the campaign to liberate Nelson Mandela and end South African Apartheid, the creation of Le Sommet de la Francophonie, the Reunification of Germany and the first Gulf War.
“In my dreams, antisemitism is no more,” Mulroney said, adding that it is a “scourge that must be eradicated.”
Amb. Lauder also presented Bret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, with the eighth WJC Teddy Kollek Award for the Advancement of Jewish Culture.
His voice of “truth and common sense” has advanced the fight against antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, Lauder said.
Stephens, an opinion columnist for The New York Times and editor-in-chief of Sapir, a new quarterly dedicated to exploring issues of Jewish concern, previously worked as foreign-affairs columnist for The Wall Street Journal and as editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.
Stephens called for a new “ecosystem of thought, creativity and culture” to replace “rotted-out” institutions.
He also said, “The reaction to the murder of Jews is euphoria. This is a road back to Kristallnacht.”
Thursday’s program also included a commemoration of the 85th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazi forces in November 1938 perpetrated a wave of antisemitic violence in Germany and Austria that killed 91 people and destroyed 267 synagogues.
In addition, a WJC initiative displayed digitally reconstructed images of destroyed synagogues on the buildings that replaced them, in cities across Germany and Austria. At some sites, VR (virtual reality) goggles enabled viewers to see the synagogue interiors of the time. The initiative occurred in cooperation with the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the IKG Wein (Jewish Community of Vienna). The initiatives in Austria and Germany took place under the patronage of President of the Austrian Parliament Wolfgang Sobotka and Bundestag President Barbel Bas.
“As we solemnly commemorate 85 years since Kristallnacht, the shadows of the past remind us of the urgent imperative to preserve history, especially as Jewish communities worldwide confront a resurgence of antisemitism following the wave of terror carried out against Israel by Hamas,” Amb. Lauder said. “This attack, claiming over 1,400 Jewish lives, stands as the most devastating since the Holocaust, reinforcing the vital need to remember and educate. … In doing so, we ensure that the phrase ‘Never Again’ transcends mere words, becoming a steadfast commitment to safeguarding Jewish lives and dignity everywhere.”
The initiative is part of WJC’s #WeRemember campaign, which seeks to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred, genocide and xenophobia, as well as educate people about the Holocaust and preserve its memory.
Previous recipients of the Herzl Award include Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, the Tenth President of the State of Israel; Dr. Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Amb. Nikki R. Haley, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former governor of South Carolina; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; Lord Jacob Rothschild and Baron David de Rothschild, on behalf of the Rothschild family; U.S. Secretary of State Gen. Colin L. Powell; President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz; Lord George Weidenfeld, British publisher and philanthropist; Secretary of State Dr. Henry A. Kissinger; President Ronald Reagan (posthumously); German publisher Axel Springer (posthumously); Elie and Marion Wiesel; and Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Actor Kirk Douglas was honored with the inaugural Teddy Kollek Award in 2016, followed by film director George Stevens; philanthropist Robert Kraft; Broadway actor, singer, director and photographer Joel Grey; Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Emeritus Zubin Mehta; violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman; and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.
More information on the World Jewish Congress event can be found here.
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