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Amal and George Clooney Honored Virtually at Simon Wiesenthal Center's National Tribute Dinner (Exclusive)
"We have said time and time again 'Never again,' and we mean it," said George Clooney as he accepted the Simon Wiesenthal Center's highest honor, the Humanitarian Award, on behalf of himself and his wife Amal Clooney during the Los Angeles-based organization's 40th annual National Tribute Dinner on Wednesday evening, the first ever held virtually.
"But the truth is we're not very good at it," the Oscar-winning filmmaker continued, citing recent genocides and atrocities in Rwanda, Armenia, Bosnia, Myanamar, Darfur, South Sudan, the Yazidis, the Uyghurs in China. "We fail more often than we succeed, and that's part of the problem. I fail a lot more than I'd like to. Doesn't mean we don't try, doesn't that we don't keep pushing that ball up the hill. These are never going to be easy solutions. But if we always remember the word 'tolerance,' that's the key — tolerance for all races, tolerance for all religions. That's what matters. That's the most important part."
The event, which raised $1.9 million to support the work of the SWC, its Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and its under-construction Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem (now $35 million short of its fundraising goal), was co-hosted by SWC chief Rabbi Marvin Hier and SWC board member and longtime gala co-chair Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Katzenberg, making his first public appearance since the demise of his streaming venture Quibi, applauded the Clooneys for their philanthropic work through the Clooney Foundation for Justice and through their support of other organizations, and noted that Clooney recently donated his time to narrate Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres, a documentary produced by SWC's Oscar-winning Moriah Films division, which will soon premiere as a Netflix original documentary.
Katzenberg also noted, "This has been the most difficult and challenging year of the Center's existence. COVID-19 forced both the Museum of Tolerance and the Center to close its doors. It also brought the construction of the new Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem to a halt. If that wasn't enough, the pandemic also contributed to the largest uptick in anti-Semitism and hate since the Center opened."
The ceremony also, however, provided plenty of reason for hope. Via introductions by Rabbi Hier and moving video packages produced, directed and narrated by Oscar-winning documentarian Richard Trank, the Center, as always, presented Medals of Valor to three "exemplary individuals who honor mankind... whose courage and bravery shine a light in the darkest of places."
This year's honorees were Douglas Miguel Rodriguez (posthumously), an Ecuadorian clerk at a Jersey City kosher supermarket who was killed while trying to protect others from anti-Semitic terrorists who shot up the establishment; Dame Louise Ellman DBE, a longtime British MP who resigned from the Labor Party in protest of then-party leader Jeremy Corbyn's anti-Semitism; and Francesco Lotoro and Grazia Tiritiello, Italian husband and wife musicologists who have devoted their career to collecting, preserving and performing music of Jewish musicians that was composed while they were in captivity during the Holocaust.
The gala was chaired by Katzenberg (SWC board member and past honoree), Eddy Cue, Jim Gianopulos (SWC board member and past honoree), Bob Iger (past honoree), Ron Meyer (SWC board member and past honoree), Jennifer Salke, Ted Sarandos (past honoree), Ann Sarnoff and Tony Vinciquerra.