Former prime minister Tony Blair presents Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks with a Lifetime Achievement award at the Jewish News' Night of Heroes.
(photo credit: BLAKE EZRA PHOTOGRAPHY)
Former British prime minister Tony Blair presented a lifetime achievement award to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at a “Night of Heroes” dinner organized by The Jewish News newspaper on Monday night in London.
Blair, who served as prime minister at the same time as Sacks served as chief rabbi, hailed Sacks as one of “my heroes.”
He lauded Sacks’s ability to teach “without making you feel stupid.”
“It was he who inspired me to re-read the Torah, what we call the Old Testament, and re-discover its power and its wisdom. His mission has never been to dazzle, but to educate,” he said.
Blair said that Britain’s Jewish community, “embodies the best of Jewish values the world over – ambition, creativity, compassion. And Jonathan in his time as chief rabbi explained it, represented it, celebrated it and where necessary, defended it.”
In a thinly veiled comment on recent events in the party he once led, he added: “I do not want to see antisemitism rear its ugly head ever in this nation. Not in this country, not in our time, not in any space in our national life and certainly not in any political party.” Labour has faced numerous allegations over the past year of antisemitism among its members.
The dinner was attended by 500 people, including British celebrities, politicians and community leaders and sought to honor individuals and organizations within the community for inspirational actions, dedication and bravery. It was hosted by comedian and author David Walliams, and held in partnership with Teddy Sagi’s technology company LABS.
The title of “Israel hero” went to the Dr. Lior Sasson, the lead doctor for the Save a Child’s Heart organization who has saved thousands of children and trained doctors in dozens of countries.
Newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky received special recognition for her work in Holocaust education. As part of the Holocaust Commission set up by former prime minister David Cameron, she has dedicated hundreds of hours to interviewing survivors who had never previously spoken about their experiences. The award was presented by Peter Lantos and Hedi Frenkl, two survivors she had interviewed.
Former Islamist extremist Maajid Nawaz, founder of London-based counter-extremism think tank Quilliam, was recognized as “communal ally” of the year following a public vote of the Jewish community. After picking up his trophy he said of his work: “I’m challenging the antisemite I used to be.”
Throughout the event in which the Jewish Leadership Council was the communal partner, guests were shown a series of powerful, short films which featured prominent figures paying tribute to the finalists.