Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies

May 31, 2009 20:46 ET

Spirit of Hope Benefit Offers Hope for More Tolerant and Just Canada

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 31, 2009) - More than two thousand people representing numerous cultural, professional, community and governmental groups converged yesterday on Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto to show support for Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. The Center, a leading supporter and driver of projects promoting tolerance, justice and human rights, held its annual Spirit of Hope Benefit to raise funds for 2010 education programs. The Center touches the lives of thousands of students, adults and community leaders each year through its programs which include movie screenings, presentations from Holocaust survivors, workshops, special events and much more.

"Since 2004, the Spirit of Hope Benefit event has given Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center hope and moral support to help its staff and volunteers deliver quality programs throughout the year," said Gerald Schwartz, chairman of the organization. "On behalf of the board, I congratulate everyone involved with the organization for harnessing our collective hope and transforming it into consistent action."

"We urged our donors and the broader community to stay committed to our organization during these tough economic times, and the response has been remarkable," said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of FSWC. "Our society cannot afford to turn its back on community-based education programs and allow hate, bigotry and antisemitism to grow in our communities. This show of support, which included impressive government representation, helps us renew our drive to reach even more people in 2010."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who attended the event along with the Ontario Premier and numerous other political leaders, received the Simon Wiesenthal International Leadership Award for his actions in defence of international human rights and principled stance on issues linked to the Center's mission.

"The Simon Wiesenthal International Leadership Award is the highest honour bestowed by our organization and is respectfully named after Simon Wiesenthal, a man who dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice and human rights," said Rabbi Hier, dean and founder of Simon Wiesenthal Center. "Prime Minister Harper has demonstrated strong moral strength in his actions on the domestic and international levels and in understanding the difficulties of the Jewish people in Canada, Israel and throughout the world."

The award has been bestowed upon many leaders including, President Ronald Reagan, Vice President Al Gore, Senator Ted Kennedy, the Dalai Lama and King Hussein of Jordan.

The 2,200-plus people gathered at Roy Thomson Hall on Sunday, May 31st, enjoyed memorable addresses from keynote speakers Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security (2005-2009), John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia (1996-2007) and John Bolton, America's Permanent Representative to the UN (2005-2006), as well as a riveting performance by RyanDan, a talented Canadian musical duo.

Persons interested in helping fund education programs promoting tolerance, social justice and combating antisemitism can make a donation by visiting www.fswc.ca. Tax receipts will be issued. The organization's charitable registration number is 890666761 RR 0001.

About Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies is a Canadian human rights organization dedicated to fostering tolerance and understanding through community involvement, educational outreach and social action. The Center currently has over 25,000 members across Canada, and confronts important contemporary issues including racism, antisemitism, terrorism and genocide. Visit www.fswc.ca for more information.

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