By Julie Ahn
Members of Congress, joined by Aish International and the Jewish Heritage Commission of the United States (https://aish-international.com/king-david-award/), recently gathered at the U.S. Capitol to pay tribute to the 2017 King David Award honorees. Each May, the Congress recognizes and celebrates the Jewish experience in America by highlighting the outstanding contributions that Jewish individuals have made to American culture.
Since 1994, the King David Award has recognized men and women from varied industries, geographies, and personal backgrounds who have made exceptional contributions to American society and Jewish heritage. Recipients have been great philanthropists and leaders and have shown a dedication to American values and to the Jewish people. Notable recipients in the past have included President Ronald Reagan; Dr. Henry Kissinger; Lady Margaret Thatcher; Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks; Dr. Andrew Von Eschenbach, commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration; and Steven Spielberg, director and producer.
Richard Boruch Rabinowitz, executive director of Aish International, made the opening remarks for the beautiful ceremony: “We believe that each and every individual could change the world. Ideas and people change the world .Â .Â . Each one of the King David honorees today has impacted the world for good. And we thank you all for allowing Aish International and the Jewish Heritage Commission to pay tribute and highlight your great accomplishments and [thank you for] improving the world and the lives of so many people.”
Matt Sweetwood then introduced the six honored recipients of the award: Jack Belz, CEO of Belz Enterprise of Memphis; Peter Friedmann, managing director of FGC Holdings/IGF Investments of Toronto; Kenneth Goldman, CFO of Yahoo of Sunnyvale, CA; Dan Amos, CEO of Aflac of Columbus, GA; Courtney Anixter, founder of Courtney Consults of Chicago; and Daniel Rose, chairman of Rose Associates of New York.
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN) took the podium as the first of the congressional speakers. “This is a great opportunity to recognize Jewish individuals who have made great contributions to American society–and what better place than in the U.S Capitol,” he said.
Representative Sandy Levin (D-MI) followed by poignantly stating: “Most of us here realize how we have benefited from the value of pluralism. May it prevail everywhere in our beloved Israel and our beloved United States. Congratulations to all of the honorees.”
Representative David Kustoff (R-TN) lauded Jack Belz, an award recipient from his home state. “The effort, the time, the gracious resources that the Belz family put in to make our community in Memphis, you would not believe .Â .Â . Without you and your vision and your commitment, I hesitate to think what downtown Memphis would be like today.”
Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (R-TN) also followed suit, praising Mr. Belz, overcome with pride for their state. “We are all proud of the Belz family in Memphis. To honor Jack and to honor all of you, we are here to join in that,” said Senator Alexander. Senator Corker added: “I’ve followed Jack’s business pursuits for many years and he is a hero to me. He is an example of how someone can join both being in business successfully and also philanthropic activities.”
“There are many similarities between my Asian American background and the American Jewish community that I’m so proud to work with and represent,” Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) explained next. “It’s the focus on education and hard work and of course lots of good food and family. So, once again, thank you to all the wonderful honorees, I look forward to continuing our partnership together.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) took the podium to thank Aish International and the Jewish Heritage Commission. “Thank you for honoring those who have done so much for our community, who are examples of principles of giving back.”
“It’s very, very important for organizations like this to bring things to the forefront. Watching these honorees, it makes me even prouder to be Jewish,” Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY) declared, smiling with pride.
“To celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, this has become an annual celebration, and I know my colleagues and I look forward to it every year,” Representative Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL) stated.
Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, captured the attention of the entire room as he assured confidently: “We have legislation moving soon in the House to try and protect Israel’s position.”
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) followed with fervent remarks. “I am grateful for the focus of the many friends that I have in the Jewish community, the emphasis on civil rights and human rights, the friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, how they walked with him and taught us all about brotherhood and sisterhood.”
“I look forward to working with you to celebrate our heritage here in the United States and to celebrate the U.S.—Israel alliance,” said Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA).
Representative Tom Suozzi (D-NY), the last speaker, made a passionate promise to always support Israel. “Israeli people have accomplished so much. Despite all the stress and pressure, they made the desert bloom, and they have the rule of law and they have democracy, they have tolerance, and they live in the modern society. I decided then and there that whatever I would do throughout my public-service career, I would always be a strong supporter to the state of Israel.”
The recipients were glowing as the prominent members of Congress spoke so elegantly and passionately regarding their achievements. “Thank you for this wonderful honor being bestowed on me today. I wish all of you the blessings of life, good health, and prideful accomplishments,” said Jack Belz.
Courtney Anixter, the first young professional to ever receive the award, beautifully remarked: “Even with all the horrible tragedies that face us on a global scale, the Jewish people are an exceptional reminder that strength, determination, and a generosity of spirit always prevail.”
“It’s a privilege to be in company with such distinguished philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and businessmen to accept this award,” said Peter Friedmann.
“We have an obligation to get involved. I think the members of Congress have an obligation to move this country forward. It all starts with giving people the opportunity to get an education,” stated Kenneth Goldman.
Catherine Blades accepted the award and delivered remarks on behalf of honoree Dan Amos. “I applaud all of you as we celebrate the accomplishments of Jewish Americans during Jewish American Heritage month. .Â .Â . The legacy of Jewish Americans and the role they have played in our country’s growth and development is a deep part of our collective heritage.”
“From childhood, I have tried to accept the challenge of helping our Creator finish and repair the world. And to do so, in the spirit of tzedakah, with righteousness and justice, on the receipt of this award, I pledge to continue to try,” Daniel Rose proudly vowed.
The annual congressional celebration not only commemorates the outstanding legacy of Jewish individuals to Jewish and Western heritage, but also recognizes the many diverse ways that they continue to enrich, improve, and strengthen our society at large.