On February 18, 2021, The World Values Network hosted the Ninth Annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala virtually. Nine years ago, The World Values Network, an organization whose mission is to promote universal Jewish values, set out to create a gala that would celebrate and honor the work of prominent individuals from all walks of life. The Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala recognizes and applauds each honoree’s efforts to promote positive ideals for the betterment of humanity, such as advancing equality and social justice. This year’s honorees include Alicia Garza, Steve Harvey, Dionne Warwick, Robert L. Greene, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Patricia Bransford.
“As both communities are in the midst of struggles that will impact America for decades to come, these honorees have inspired us with their commitment to fostering a society where the divine image in all God’s children is not taken for granted but, in fact, cherished,” said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, executive director of The World Values Network. “We must recognize the best practices these leaders have pioneered and appreciate how they can make a difference at a global scale.”
This year’s gala was held in honor of Black History Month. As 2020 was such a turbulent year for African American and Jewish relations, the goal of the gala was to focus on social cohesion, kinship and brotherhood between the two communities, as well as to bring together world leaders who are tackling pressing issues impacting the United States. With that in mind, philanthropist, entrepreneur and champion of African American equality, Robert F. Smith, co-hosted the event, along with David and Mona Sterling, The Falic Family and Sir Clive and Anya Gillinson. Smith was also recognized at the gala for his global philanthropic efforts, emerging as one of the United States’ strongest supporters of family and communal identity.
More Gala Highlights
The Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala had many highlights, including the performances by five-time Emmy nominee and Broadway actor Tituss Burgess and world-renowned pianist Evgeny Kissin. Robert F. Smith also made an opening speech that centered on the horrific events of last year and early 2021, including the storming of the U.S. Capitol building and the importance of understanding the shared histories and struggles that the African American and Jewish communities have faced. Smith also mentioned the Jewish value of “repairing the world…together.” He emphasized that the Jewish community, African Americans and, in fact, all citizens must come together to make lasting changes, including helping to mend the racial wealth gap between African Americans and almost every other community. Smith called for support for The 2% Solution, in which every family would donate 2% of their income per year to charities.
Also introduced at the Ninth Annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala was a global multi-media project. The project will feature short videos from world leaders, influencers, celebrities and sports heroes, who will discuss the core values that have motivated their work. The videos will be distributed first via social media platforms. The initial funding, totaling $2.5 million, was donated by Smith and his family. The project is now in production and will partner with African American and minority-owned businesses, as well as technology platforms, to produce the content. The content is intended to unite families, promote strong communities and inspire selfless giving.
In 2020, Smith was an honoree of the Annual Champions of Jewish Values International Awards Gala. At that ceremony, he received the Champion of Education Award, partly in recognition of his $34 million donation to pay off the student loan debt of the 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.