The international Jewish human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center has bestowed its highest honor, the 2009 Humanitarian award, on Hollywood mega-star Will Smith.
Holocaust survivors, prominent businesspeople, politicians and members of the entertainment industry joined members of the Jewish community in honoring the accomplished actor and philanthropist at the Wiesenthal Center's National Tribute Dinner in Los Angeles.
The award was given to Mr. Smith for his commitment to education, cultural diversity, and social responsibility and was presented by actress Charlize Theron at the star-studded event.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of the DreamWorks movie studio, served as master of ceremonies. Grammy Award-winning songwriter and producer Josiah Bell provided the entertainment.
Will Smith, who has been described by Newsweek as the "most powerful actor in the world", has starred in dozens of films and has cultivated a successful musical career.
The Wiesenthal Center also presented Medals of Valor to Karnit Goldwasser, wife of slain Israel Defense Forces soldier Ehud Goldwasser for her commitment to speaking out against terrorism and her activism in the battle to achieve the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit; Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III, the heroic pilot responsible for the "Miracle on the Hudson," when he masterfully landed U.S. Airways Flight 1459 on the Hudson River and saved the lives of 155 people; and Marion Pritchard, for saving the lives of hundreds of Dutch Jews during World War II, most of whom were children.
Proceeds from the event were dedicated to helping support the educational programs of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance.
In 2007, Smith was sued by the Jewish League for allegedly praising Adolf Hitler, but eventually won the case and was awarded an undisclosed amount in damages. The lawsuit was filed after Smith told the Daily Record that "Even Hitler didn't wake up going, 'let me do the most evil thing I can do today.' I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was 'good'. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming."
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