Last month, the Simon Wiesenthal Center hosted its 5th annual event honoring Heroes for Tolerance. The celebration usually is held in Yankee Stadium — the honorees are brought to home plate for an on-field ceremony — but in this pandemic year it was moved to a large private space.
Heroes for Tolerance, hosted by Polly and Gabriel Bousbib in Englewood, honored New Jersey State Senator Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen). He has been a strong voice in the legislature, working to make sure that New Jersey Jewish institutions have the resources they need for security measures, given the rise of anti- Semitic attacks. He has advocated for bringing members of the legislature from all backgrounds together to foster better understanding, collaboration, and unity. The Summit-based Nassau Consulting Group also was honored; principals Michael Pock and Matthew Dikovics accepted the award. They both spent more than a decade on the staff of former Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and have helped the Murphy administration combat hate and anti- Semitism. David Heskiel of New York, a chaplain for the New York Police Department PBA and the New York State Police, was recognized for his efforts to develop better relationships and cultural sensitivity between law enforcement entities and local communities.
Israel Nitzan, Israel’s Acting Consul General for Israel in New York, talked about the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s advocacy as nearly 30 New Jersey municipalities passed an anti- BDS resolution. He also held a Zoom meeting with all of those city’s mayors and the consulate so that the State of Israel could formally voice its appreciation. Rabbi Aron Kotler, head of the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, described his first-hand experience as the Wiesenthal Center worked to remove the southern New Jersey hate group Rise Up Ocean County from its Facebook platform.
Elias Levy, Consul General of Panama for New York, New Jersey State Assembly members Gordon Johnson and Gary Schaer, Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton, and Andrew Gross, executive director of the NJ- Israel Commission, all were at the celebration.
“I would like to commend the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its director Michael Cohen for its 5th Annual Heroes for Tolerance award ceremony,” Mr. Cureton said. “It was a great program, highlighted by the honorees who advocate for programs that assist in eradicating anti-Semitism. I would also like to thank director Michael Cohen for his never-ending commitment to fighting for equality for all people.”
“I am humbled to have been honored at this event and am inspired to continue the fight for justice and tolerance,” Mr. Lagana said. “It’s clear that increasing threats and violence associated with hate must be met by the even stronger momentum that is building for social justice. This moment calls for us to actively strengthen the bonds of our communities through condemning messages of hate, both veiled and blatant, and by rising above the ignorance and apathy that enable further division.”
“SWC would like to thank all involved for helping ensure that this event produced the resources necessary to continue forwarding the institution’s critical programs and fulfilling the mission at a time that is both more challenging and critical than any time in recent memory,” Mr. Cohen added. “The SWC family is truly humbled at the generosity of the Northeast region and are immensely grateful.”