Newt Gingrich, one of seven honorees at the May 28 Third Annual “Champions of Jewish Values Awards Gala,” at the Marriott Marquis, launched his no holds barred address to the nearly 800 guests with: “I want to talk to you with a heavy heart.”
Recipient of the Guardian of Israel Award, Former Speaker of the House Gingrich declared: “I owe you my deepest and most honest belief…We are losing to European anti-Semitism…here at home to American anti-Semitism. We are losing to a worldwide effort to isolate and discredit Israel… We don’t have the nerve to say ‘This isn’t a peace process — this is a diplomatic charade for murderers, terrorists, thugs, genocidal maniacs… We live in an era when it is easier to tolerate the lie than insist on the truth. We go to cocktail parties and give money to faculty who are vicious anti-Semites and whose universities are dedicated to destroying you… We need the political, cultural equivalent of battlefield courage to confront the enemy.” Author of 26 books including 14 New York Times best sellers, he signed off with: “We have to decide whether ‘Never Again!’ is a slogan or a policy.”
Founder, executive director of the World Values and the evening’s emcee, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was in high gear making sure that every one of the evening’s honorees, award presenters and speakers got his/her moment on the Red Carpet as he grouped and re-grouped them for the press barrage —among them: Sen. Tom Cruz, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Robert Menendez, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, Michael Steinhardt, Elie Wiesel and Sir Ben Kingsley.
Recipient of the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Light of The Jewish People Award Elie Wiesel waxed philosophical about the “quest for justice…for truth…in some cases a quest for God.” Posing existential questions vis-a-vis a person not being able to be alone, musing that “God alone is alone” that “there are so many ways in which two human beings can be together to think about existential problems and solutions.” Wiesel confessed: “ I am jealous of my students…they are going to learn something they still don’t know” and—in conclusion— cautioned not to “waste time that can never be recovered.”
Oscar winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley, who was presented with the “Judy and Michael Steinhardt Champion of Holocaust Memory Award” by the Steinhardts, dramatically extolled the “privilege and responsibility of wearing a yellow star on the screen” for [“Nazi Hunter”] Simon Wiesenthal, for the character Isaak Shtern (in “The Schindler List”) and as Otto Frank [Anne Frank’s father]. Describing his meeting with Simon Wiesenthal in 1988 in his Vienna office Kingsley demonstrated with a flourish: ”He gestured to the massive files on his shelves dubbing them “’blood turned to ink’.”
Citing — among others — English poet Longfellow, Kingsley said “We measure everything by Auschwitz” as he highlighted a young German philosopher’s observation: “’We Germans will move into the 21st century with an indigestible lump of history that must not be forgiven…may never be forgotten and will never be understood.’” With a profound dramatic flourish Kingsley recalled:”Wiesenthal, who told me: ‘When I pass on to the other side and meet all those who have perished, I will be able to say I never forgot you…I thank you for giving me permission to be a witness.”