The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) thanks almost 2,000 of our friends for joining and celebrating with ZOA our exciting virtual superstar gala. Here are some of the highlights from this spectacular evening (which you can watch – or watch again – here).
The evening began with beautiful children in Sderot, Israel, singing Hatikvah. (Minute 1:53:) The well-known a capella group, Kippalive, sang the Star Spangled Banner, and more of their lively songs interspersed throughout the evening’s presentations.
(3:33) A brief introductory video touched upon ZOA’s courageous legal, government relations, campus and media work, fighting for the Jewish people, the pro-Israel community, and Israel’s safety and security, including filing amicus briefs, initiating the Jerusalem Embassy bill and campaign, removing harsh critics of Israel from government posts, and obtaining ground-breaking victories to protect Jewish students’ civil rights to harassment-free college campuses.
(9:30) In the introductory video, Professor Alan Dershowitz praised ZOA National President Mort Klein, saying: “I will continue to stand with Mort as a symbol of Zionist unity. . . . [Mort is] a great Jewish leader.” (9:47) Then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised ZOA, saying: “Since its founding in 1897, ZOA has played a key role in mobilizing support for the idea of a Jewish state, and afterwards, for the State of Israel. . . . I want to express my deep appreciation for all the good work that you’ve done over the years. The people of Israel appreciate you. And the people of Israel and I thank you.”
(10:20) Master of Ceremonies, ZOA Chair Mark Levenson, Esq., welcomed everyone and spoke movingly.
(21:10) ZOA President Morton Klein then warmly welcomed everyone. He mentioned that ever since the shutdowns began, ZOA found new ways to reach out to everyone, and has been providing the most active, exciting, continuing educational and advocacy online programs of any Jewish organization.
Mr. Klein recounted that in the past year, he made a great new friend – rapper, actor, producer, Big3 basketball league founder Ice Cube. Ice Cube is a Zionist supporter of Israel as a Jewish state, and has repeatedly publicly condemned antisemitism.
“Because ZOA never gives up, many of the goals that ZOA has pursued and been fighting for have been achieved.”
For instance, Mr. Klein described ZOA’s non-stop efforts to obtain U.S. recognition of Israel’s eternal capital Jerusalem and to move the U.S. embassy there. In 1980, former President Jimmy Carter helped pass a despicable UN resolution calling on all countries to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the holy Jewish city of Jerusalem. Carter caused 12 countries to move out of Jerusalem. But ZOA refused to give up. Together with Congressional leaders Kyl, Gingrich and Dole, ZOA initiated and obtained overwhelmingly passage of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995. ZOA kept pushing for presidential recognition for the next 23 years. ZOA testified before Congressional committees. ZOA was the only Jewish organization that repeatedly criticized presidents for failing to follow the law, and for instead improperly invoking the security waiver every 6 months in order not to move the embassy to Jerusalem. ZOA educated people about Jerusalem’s long Jewish history and legal standing, and that the Islamic Koran and the PLO Covenant never mention the word Jerusalem.
(25:50) Mr. Klein also discussed more examples of ZOA’s tenacious legal, educational and advocacy campaigns and successes. ZOA transformed textbooks, travel guides and church programs to eliminate anti-Israel lies and propaganda. ZOA fought an ultimately successful 18-year battle to enable American citizens born in Jerusalem to have “Israel” recorded as their birthplace on their passports. ZOA succeeded in its 25-year battle against former President Clinton’s and Obama’s anti-Israel labeling orders that facilitated BDS. ZOA battled for decades against Carter-era pronouncements falsely claiming that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are illegal, and against the infamous Obama-orchestrated UN Resolution 2334 that declared historic Jewish lands to be “occupied Arab land.” Finally, the Trump administration recognized the legality of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. ZOA’s Center of Law and Justice, led by Susan Tuchman, Esq., led a six-year battle that resulted in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights statement that Jewish students would be given the same protections as other minorities under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, to be free of harassment and discrimination on college campuses. ZOA has since filed numerous complaints against universities, and obtained monitoring and other steps to stop harassment and discrimination against Jewish students.
ZOA also educated people and testified in Congress about the Jewish people’s long history in the Golan Heights, from Biblical times through 800 years after destruction of the Second Temple. Thankfully, the Trump administration recognized Israel’s sovereignty in the Golan.
During the Trump administration, ZOA also succeeded in its long-term efforts to have America: stop funding the terrorist dictatorship Palestinian Authority – which hasn’t even negotiated for 10 years, and incites and pays Arab terrorists to murder Jews and Americans, and names schools, sports teams and streets in honor of terrorists; stop funding UNRWA – which teaches Gazan children to hate Jews, and stores weapons for Hamas; remove the illegal PLO mission in Washington in 2010; end supporting UNRWA which is obsessed with passing anti-Israel resolutions; withdraw from the catastrophic Iran deal, which paves Iran’s way to a nuclear bomb; and impose maximal sanctions on Iran, which are working.
(32:55) ZOA also is proud that we reached out to our allies – including the Russian Jewish and Persian Jewish communities and other pro-Israel groups – and together, under ZOA’s leadership, won a stunning victory in the World Zionist Congress elections that will help return the World Zionist Congress to its missions of promoting true pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist education and goals.
(33:35) Since ZOA’s earliest days, ZOA has combatted all forms of antisemitism, from anywhere on the political spectrum. Mr. Klein testified in Congress about hate crimes and Islamist antisemitism. ZOA pushed for the last Nazi war criminal to be deported from the United States. The Trump administration deported him, after previous administrations did nothing.
(34:14) ZOA raised the alarm about the increasing mainstreaming of antisemitism, by the Jew-haters and Israel-bashers in Congress, like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and AOC, and others such as Linda Sarsour – who support BDS against Israel, praise Jew-killers and call throwing rocks at Israeli Jews the “definition of courage.”
More recently, ZOA was the only Jewish group that has publicly exposed and condemned hostile-to-Israel Biden appointees and nominations, including Secretary of State nominee Tony Blinken, who praised and spoke at the conference of the extremist anti-Israel J Street and embraced Jew-hater Linda Sarsour; Karine Jean-Pierre, a former Soros official, who supports BDS and bragged about successfully urging pro-Israel Democrats not to speak at pro-Israel conferences; Reema Dodin, who justified suicide bombings against Jews – she justified killing Jewish people – and she blamed 9-11 on U.S. support of Israel, which is a complete lie; and Avril Haines, who signed anti-Israel letters. The other Jewish groups have remained deafeningly silent, and some have even praised these appointments. This is painfully reminiscent of the silence of Jewish groups during other periods of Jewish history.
(36:06) Mr. Klein described his strong activism for Black civil rights. Mr. Klein grew up in a Black neighborhood – these were his buddies. In the 1960s, he attended sit-ins and marches, and went to Mississippi to help register Blacks to vote, and was arrested there. Mr. Klein noted: “There is a long and noble history of Jews and Blacks working together. . . . The phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ is surely true. Just as Jewish lives matter, and all lives matter. Unfortunately, the BLM group and the Movement for Black Lives have used these names and have been co-opted by Marxist organizations affiliated with the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the PFLP, and its front groups. . . . . We’ve spoken out against the BLM antisemitic, anti-Israel platform, calling Israel an apartheid state, condemning Israel for genocide – a total lie; their pogrom against Jewish synagogues, shops and businesses in Los Angeles; their anti-Israel days of rage in multiple cities; claiming that Israel trains policemen to murder Blacks in America. . . . What outrageous rubbish.
“Shockingly, instead of siding with ZOA against these groups that were perpetrating anti-Jewish pogroms and blood libels against the Jewish people, [certain] Jewish groups [Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, certain women’s groups, Ameinu, HIAS, the extremist J Street and New Israel Fund] . . . absurdly and wrongly and publicly called the ZOA “racist” and tried to invoke ‘cancel culture’ against us, because we condemned their [the BDS/M4BL organization’s] ugly antisemitic and anti-Israel platform. Refuting their ugly lies, the ZOA did not back down, and ZOA filed formal complaints against each and every one of them [the left wing Jewish groups that called ZOA names]. We will continue to tell the truth about our enemies, no matter what left wing Jewish groups do to try to defame us.”
When Blacks attacked or killed Jews in Brooklyn, Muncie, and Jersey City, we called on Black leaders to condemn those attacks. Mr. Klein met with these Black leaders. We were pleased when some of these Black leader answered our call, and strongly, courageously and powerfully spoke out against these murders of Jewish people.
Mr. Klein concluded, by urging: “Join the ZOA. Strengthen the ZOA. As Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer proclaimed, ‘ZOA is the conscience of the Jewish community. If there is an organization that represents the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, that organization is the Zionist Organization of America.’ I pledge to you that we will continue to do everything in our power to live up to those powerful words.
(42:40) Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus (and previous ZOA Awardee) Alan Dershowitz presented the ZOA / Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award to Ambassador David Friedman.
(43:45) U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman thanked his friend Mort Klein and all at ZOA, and stated that he was truly honored to receive the ZOA / Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award because “the award comes from [ZOA] one of the most vital organizations in the world in defending the rights of the Jewish State,” and because the award is named for the Adelsons, a couple whose philanthropic support for the State of Israel and the Jewish people has no equal.
Ambassador Friedman recalled that three years ago, when he received the Shillman Award at the 2017 ZOA Gala, he received rousing applause. Ambassador Friedman described President Trump’s pro-Israel record – and called it the most pro-Zionist of any occupant of the Oval Office.
Ambassador Friedman mentioned the current hijacking, mangling, and manipulating of the term “pro-Israel” by many far left organizations, Bernie Sanders, the Squad, and those who, from the safety of the salons of New York, Los Angeles, and Europe, “demand concessions, compromises and even retreat, knowing full well that they bear none of the risks if their advice proves catastrophic.” He noted that of course these folks that claim to be pro-Israel are not pro-Israel.
Amb. Friedman also noted: “Today it is just not enough to be pro-Israel. One must be pro-Zionist. And that’s why I’m deeply honored to receive the Adelson Award from an organization that proudly stands for that principle – the Zionist Organization of America.”
(52:00) A video montage was played, with brief clips from a few of the many public figures who have shared their thoughts at ZOA’s numerous virtual events during the past year, about the relentless battles for Israeli sovereignty, and to combat antisemitism, including U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Elan Carr; Senator Ted Cruz; Minister Naftali Bennett; Israeli Ambassador Dore Gold; Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon; MK Sharren Haskel; Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum; and Professor Dershowitz – together with ZOA Center for Law & Justice Director Susan Tuchman, Esq. and ZOA Government Relations Department Director Dan Pollak.
(56:44) ZOA Florida Honorees Dr. Craig Deligdish & Gila Bronner, and Dr. Daniel & Staci Layish movingly spoke, after an introduction by ZOA Florida Executive Director Sharona Whisler. Dr. Craig Deligdish spoke about what an honor it is to be recognized by the ZOA – “an organization that is in the forefront of the fight against antisemitism, not just in America but around the world,” and praised Sharona’s and the Layishes’ work in Florida. Gila Bronner commended ZOA’s many effective accomplishments.
(1:12:09) ZOA Greater Philadelphia Honorees Allen L. Rothenberg, Esq. and Dom Giordano were introduced by ZOA Greater Philadelphia Executive Director Steve Feldman. Allen Rothenberg said that ZOA’s, Mort Klein’s, and Steve Feldman’s tireless work is amazing, including the “buy Israel” campaign to fight BDS – especially items over the green line, and ZOA’s work to fight antisemitism and anti-Zionism (which is now a euphemism for antisemitism) wherever it is encountered, including the schools. He called for people to support ZOA in action as well as theory. Dom Giordano is the dean of American talk radio, a good friend, a Catholic, and a patriot. Mr. Giordano said that ZOA’s patriotism moved him, and spoke about “the force of good that Israel is.” ZOA and Dom Giordano expose the Israel-haters, who don’t “get it” because they don’t live in that part of the world.
(1:19:30) A beautiful ZOA Campus video was shown of some of the ZOA Campus activities and ZOA’s fabulous student leadership trips to Israel.
(1:22:50) Emcee Mark Levenson presented ZOA’s Dr. Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Statesmanship to former Director of Policy and Planning for the U.S. State Department Professor Dr. Kiron Skinner, including for her outstanding work on NATO issues and strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship.
(1:24:05) Professor Dr. Kiron Skinner spoke about peace in the Middle East and the fight against antisemitism. She noted that experts recognized the historic Abraham accords as a non-partisan, positive move, and the dawn of a new Middle East. The agreement was achieved by turning on its head the established policies of global elites, in a multi-lateral fashion. The Trump Doctrine has reordered the entire environment in the Middle East. Pres. Trump made normalizing and strengthening ties with Israel the priority. Dr. Skinner mentioned that, as a Catholic, she came to love Israel from reading the Bible. We have a shared history and destiny. Dr. Skinner also noted that ending antisemitism is a key issue of our time, and stated that we African Americans have a special responsibility in this regard. Jews risked their lives, and some of them died, for African Americans’ freedom. We need to return the favor. Dr. Skinner noted that, with ZOA, we can complete the project of ending antisemitism.
(1:35:20) ZOA Michigan Honorees Dr. Herbert & Margot Gardner and Ronna Ross & Steve Schwartz, z’’l were introduced by ZOA Michigan Executive Director Kobi Erez. The Gardners went with ZOA to the University of Michigan to protest against antisemitism and Palestinian terrorist murders of innocent Israelis. Ronna Ross spoke of her and her husband’s support for Israel, and noted that “we support ZOA because ZOA supports Israel.”
(1:41:00) Academy Award-Winning Actor Jon Voight, a great American who is also a previous ZOA Adelson Award winner, was warmly introduced by ZOA President Morton Klein.
(1:41:58) Academy Award-Winning Actor Jon Voight noted, “I love America. And I love ZOA, because they stand up for Israel and America against the lies and propaganda. You teach the truth to our precious children in our American universities and everyone you can reach. I’m proud of you guys.”
Mr. Voight spoke about “becoming aware of the insanity of antisemitism at a very early time.” He also remembered identifying with a Jewish boy in the Holocaust, standing behind barbed wire. “That could be me, I remember thinking, and I was so angry at what was happening to this little boy.” Mr. Voight also “witnessed the attacks on this tiny state of Israel from the very beginning, through to the present. So much suffering and loss of life. ”
Mr. Voight explained that the greatest danger now is Iran, and the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration, which paves Iran’s way to carrying out a nuclear Holocaust against Israel within a decade. Mr. Voight noted: “Donald Trump dismantled this poisonous agreement. Joe Biden and the Left have promised to reinstate it. Leftism, communism, socialism, progressivism – it’s all the same.” He then discussed their techniques developed by the KGB in the 1950s. “They knew how to bring a country down by attacking religion, family, stirring up grievances, indoctrinating children through the schools, the media, Hollywood. The Left knows a great deal about dismantling a country. They know very little about governing, about economics, about respect, about the pursuit of happiness. They know one thing – they can do without G-d. Every country that communism has overtaken has produced nothing but misery and cruelty.
“If you want to learn about Marxism, Socialism, Communism, study the countries taken over by it. If you want to learn about radical Islam, about Iran and its proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO which runs the Palestinian Authority, study what happens in the Islamic regimes. Look at how the Palestinian Authority continues to pay Arab terrorists and their families’ lifetime pensions to murder Jews and Americans. The more deaths, the more money. Seek the truth. Get to the bottom of things. And then, of course, ask G-d’s guidance. . . . We’re in a great battle now, and we need to keep strong.”
(1:47:20) After quoting the Biblical verse about setting watchmen for Jerusalem, Jon Voight stated: “I think of Mortie Klein as one of G-d’s watchmen. His vigilance is indispensable today with so many lost in the convenient lies that help them get along. When atrocities are to be faced and dealt with, too many keep their heads down and move into the shadows. Mortie stands up. ZOA stands up. And I’m so grateful for my friendship with Mortie and my association with ZOA. And I’m grateful to all of you, who support this work. Much love to you. G-d bless.”
(1:48:30) ZOA Pittsburgh Honorees Andrea Chester and Harold F. Marcus were introduced by ZOA Pittsburgh Executive Director Stuart Pavilack. Ms. Chester described the inspiring vitality of Israel – and how ZOA supports all of this, and helps keep Israel safe and thriving. Mr. Marcus spoke movingly of his lifetime support and love for Israel.
(1:55:30) Emcee Mark Levenson presented the Wu Kai-Sheng Award for Outstanding Diplomacy to Israel’s New Ambassador to the UN and U.S. Gilad Erdan, who served in numerous Knesset and Ministerial positions. The award was generously endowed by Dr. Bruno Wu in honor of his wonderful grandfather, who worked overtime during WW II, to help Jews escape from Europe to China, and to later obtain visas to the United States.
(1:58:33) Ambassador Gilad Erdan spoke of the necessity to do more to fight the sinister virus of antisemitism. All four of his grandparents were Holocaust survivors, who built their lives in Israel, and taught him the importance of fighting antisemitism in all its forms. The new guise of antisemitism today is BDS and attacking and delegitimizing Israel, the world’s only Jewish state. “BDS activists try to mask their antisemitism behind the façade of human rights.” Amb. Erdan stated: “As I take on my dual role here at the UN and in Washington, fighting antisemitism will be among my top priorities. And I know that the ZOA is by my side in this important fight.”
Amb. Erdan also spoke about how the Abraham Accords have transformed the region, with a flurry of cooperation in many areas, and a rebuilding of the connection among the descendants of Abraham. The Abraham Accords shattered the paradigm of the Palestinians holding peace hostage unless their outrageous demands were met. The Accords have also changed things at the UN. Amb. Erdan and his Arab counterparts who signed the Accords are working together for the mutual benefit of their countries. The murderous Iranian sponsors of terrorism have helped bring Israel and moderate regimes in the Middle East together.
Amb. Erdan concluded: “I want to thank you all for your unconditional and unwavering support of the Jewish people.”
(2:03:25) ZOA President Morton Klein introduced his dear friend Jeff Kwatinetz, Esq., who then introduced Rapper/Actor/Filmmaker Ice Cube. Jeff is an ardent Jewish Zionist, loves ZOA, and has been a partner, friend, and manager of Ice Cube for 28 years.
(2:04:30) Jeff Kwatinetz, Esq. introduced his main man and long-time friend and business partner, Rapper/Actor/Filmmaker Ice Cube. Jeff was also excited to be addressing the ZOA, as someone who loves Israel and is Jewish, and whose Judaism is important to him. Jeff noted: “Getting to know Mort Klein and his wife Rita has been incredible. In the same way that the ZOA and Mort cares about our people. . . We were attacked for daring to lobby on behalf of Black people to the Trump administration. We were subjected to the cancel culture. Because of all the emotions that were riding high, Ice Cube was even accused of being antisemitic, which was hurtful to me, because I took it personally. Because I’ve known him for so long, I’ve known that it was untrue. I was also worried that, as a Jew, and this was exacerbated by people actually coming to me, Black people, and saying ‘Why are your people attacking us?’ And the great thing about Mort is that he sought answers, and him and Cube were able to find commonality, instead of focusing on differences. Thank you for that, Mort.”
(2:07:34) Rapper/Actor/Film-maker Ice Cube spoke saying: “I’d like to start off by thanking the ZOA and Morton Klein especially for inviting me to speak today. I also understand that you have Jon Voight on the program. I had the pleasure of working with him in the 90s. We did a movie called Anaconda together. . . When he came to the set, it was amazing, . . . he was this larger than life, gracious host that started to cook fish for everyone. We were very cool. . . . And it helped me when I went to direct my film, The Players’ Club. Thank you John Voight for that.”
(2:10:17) Ice Cube continued: “I want to again thank the ZOA, especially Morton Klein, who reached out. And we spoke this summer.
“And Morton, he’s known for taking no B.S., and calling people out for who they are. And I wanted to let him know and explain to him, and have him have a connection with me. And I think we made a human connection that was great. Because we started off talking about all the things we had in common. And he grew up in the ‘hood, and I was bussed to school. So I think in a lot of ways, we were both able to be exposed to different races at an early age.
“He came away from that, well I came away from that knowing he’s a great guy. I believe he came away from that understanding that I’m not antisemitic. I’m not an antisemitic person. I’m against antisemitism in all aspects. I don’t want to see any other community hurt, or people to treat any community like my community has been treated. I would be an extreme hypocrite if I was against any other people, knowing how bad my people are persecuted.
“I’m glad that Morton was able to see me for what I am, and invite me to speak. And I’m very happy that you guys were able to hear me speak, and understand I don’t want to bring any harm to the Jewish community, in any way, shape or form. And I don’t want to see any harm done to the Jewish community, in any shape or form. I think it’s about time for all communities to live in peace. So thank you once again for letting me speak. And I really appreciate it.”
(2:14:14) ZOA President Morton Klein concluded by thanking everyone for being part of the amazing evening, and thanked all the megastars, award winners, and generous sponsors who made the evening possible. “Our duty as Jews, according to our holy Torah, is to do all we can and continue to fight for truth, justice, and righteousness. And ZOA will continue to do exactly that. As Senator Ted Cruz (a previous Adelson Award winner) said ‘ZOA is a ferocious and fearless defender of Israel.’ Our sages teach us that whether we succeed or not in our efforts is up to G-d almighty. But, if the ZOA, along with people like all of you, and all our honorees, and all our supporters, continue to fight on, relentlessly, effectively and passionately, for Israel and the Jewish people, I am sure that HaShem will look upon us favorably, and will assure that we do succeed in our holy work as a watchman for our ancient homeland and for our people. In the Book of Ezekial, G-d warns: ‘If the watchman of Jerusalem sees the sword of our enemies coming, but doesn’t sound the alarm, and doesn’t blow the trumpet, so that our people are not warned, I the Lord your G-d will hold the watchman accountable for any harm that may come.’ I pledge to all of you that ZOA will remain on guard duty, remain the vigilant watchman, and blow and blow the trumpet to protect the Jewish people and Jewish homeland, with all of our hearts and souls. May G-d bless all of you, and good night.”