Fox's Jim Gianopulos Honored By Wiesenthal Center, Raises Record $2.2 Million

Wiesenthal Center Gianopolus gala - H 2013
Courtesy of Wiesenthal Center

Wiesenthal Center Gianopolus gala - H 2013

Jeffrey Katzenberg presents the Fox film chief with humanitarian award, while the center's founder Rabbi Marvin Hier sharply criticizes attempts to make entertainers boycott Israel.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center bestowed its highest honor -- the Humanitarian Award -- on Fox Film chief Jim Gianopulos Tuesday during a glittering and emotionally charged National Tribute Dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The evening, an annual event for the center, raised a record $2.2 million.

Fellow film mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was one of the event’s co-chairs, presented the honor to Gianopulos in appreciation of his long support for the center and its work.

STORY: Jim Gianopulos Joins USC School of Cinematic Arts Board 

“Now in order to be a true humanitarian,” Katzenberg said, “you first have to be a true human. Or Jim, as you might say in Greek a ‘mensch.’ And you, Jim, are the real deal. Your humanity is on display in everything you do.” As the DreamWorks animation chief presented the award -- a huge decorative Menorah encased in glass -- he quipped, “This is going to look good in a Greek household.” This being Hollywood, Katzenberg also digressed briefly to praise Gianopulos for being so open to new technology and giving the go-ahead to Avatar.

"He's intensely focused on the future," Katzenberg told the crowd, which included MPAA chief Chris Dodd. "He brings his passion for the possibilities of technology to his work, as was dramatically evident by his willingness to stand by Avatar despite its mounting costs. And he did this not only because he was confident in the film, and the filmmaker Jim Cameron, but because he felt it would open new directions for our industry."

Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the center that furthers the work of the renowned Austrian Holocaust survivor and hunter of Nazi war criminals, said “The Center is thrilled to honor Jim Gianopulos, one of the giants of the entertainment world, for his leadership and generous support of our institution and many other worthwhile humanitarian causes.”

For his part, the 20th Century Fox Film CEO spoke of his most recent visit to the center’s Museum of Tolerance on Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles and recalled the a story involving Simon Wiesenthal himself. “When Wiesenthal was asked why he did not return (after the war) to being the architect he had worked so hard to become before the horrors of the Holocaust denied him the opportunity, he answered simply: ‘When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, ‘What have you done?’ There will be many answers. You will say, ‘I became a jeweler.’ Another will say, ‘I have smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.’ Another will say, ‘I built houses.’ But I will say, ‘I did not forget you’ ..."

“His message must be a call to action for all of us,” Gianapulos concluded, “especially for those of us who live lives so often insulated from the suffering of others, when it is easy to turn away and immerse ourselves in our work and our families and pretend it’s not our problem.”

The Wiesenthal Center's operations include the Museum of Tolerance, classes on the Holocaust for school children across Southern California, a facility and soon-to-be-opened museum in Jerusalem, and a film division whose documentaries have won two Academy Awards. The Center has long been a favorite cause of A-list Hollywood stars and executives. The list of the evening’s co-chairs included Gianopulos' boss, Rupert Murdoch, Chase Carey, Eddy Cue, Bob Iger and Ron Meyer.

Gianopolus' top deputies were out in force to celebrate the award. They included: Chief Communcations Officer Chris Petrikin; Fox Animation President Vanessa Morrison; 20th Century Fox President of Production Emma Watts; International Theatrical Distribution Co-President Paul Hanneman; Domestic Distribution President Chris Aronson; Chief Creative Officer Tony Sella; Chief Marketing Officer Oren Aviv; Post Production President Ted Gagliano; Chief Financial Officer Dean Hallett; Executive Vice President of Finance and Deputy Chief Financial Officer Jane Waxman; Fox International Productions President Sanford Panitch; President and Chief Marketing Officer Mary Daily; Home Entertainment President Mike Dunn; Visual Effects President John Kilkenny; Fox Searchlight presidents Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley; and Greg Gelfan, the executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment and Fox Entertainment Group.

The evening’s emotional charge came from posthumous award of the center’s Medals of Valor to four gentiles who heroically risked their lives to save Jews from their Nazi persecutors during the Second World War. Those honored included Waitstill and Martha Sharp, two American Unitarians who rescued Jews and Mother Elisabetta Hesselblad and Mother Ricarda Beauchamp Hambrough, both Catholic nuns who provided shelter to Italian Jews fleeing the Nazis in Rome.

As age claims so many of the Holocaust survivors and those who extraordinary people who risked everything on their behalf, the Wiesenthal Center also is dedicated to keeping alive the memory of those who perished. The night’s other medal went to conductor Murray Sidlin, who unearthed and then recreated a powerful musical performance by Jewish concentration camp inmates.

At he conclusion of his remarks Tuesday night, Rabbi Hier spoke to the crowd about one of the Wiesenthal Center’s newest challenges, attempts by supporters of the various Palestinian factions to impose a scholarly and cultural boycott on Israel. The pressure to join the effort has become particularly acute in the literary and entertainment fields. “Most of the time our work is far removed from the entertainment community,” the rabbi told the audience, “but recently many leading entertainment figures have been approached to boycott Israel and not make any appearances there on the grounds that Israel is an apartheid state, which is a blatant lie and sinister distortion of the truth. It was only 2 weeks ago that the center publicly congratulated Alicia Keys for her courage in going ahead with her July 4th concert in Tel Aviv and following the example of the Rolling Stones and more recently Barbra Streisand and Robert DeNiro, who will be appearing at major events.

STORY: Sara Bareilles, Jason Collins to Headline LGBT Democratic Fundraiser with Michelle Obama 

“Alicia rejected the request of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker who warned her that, ‘By going to Israel she would place her soul in danger.’” Hier continued. “Pink Floyd member, Roger Waters, in a letter, said ‘her appearance would give legitimacy to the apartheid policies of the government.’ To which I said in a statement to the press, ‘When Ms. Keys sings in Israel on July 4th, she will be singing in the only free country in the Middle East, where women enjoy equal rights with men and Israeli Arabs have more rights than any of their brothers and sisters in the Arab world. Just look at what's happening today in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt’ ..."

“It is not apartheid, my friends, when you don’t talk to those who wish to destroy you. Jews won't talk to neo-Nazis, African Americans won’t dialogue with the KKK. Latinos will not sit down with Numbers USA and the United States does not engage with Al-Qaeda," Hier stated. "So should Israel be free to say it will never sit down with Hamas as long as its charter calls for the destruction of Israel?”