A radiant, Hillary Clinton in a midnight blue silk gown, bounded up the stage at the Waldorf-Astoria’s Starlight Roof to present the World Jewish Congress’ Theodor Herzl Award to Marion and Elie Wiesel at the Congress’ November 19 Award Dinner.
“When I was First Lady, Elie spoke at the White House as part of a lecture series leading up to the New Year 2000 — the eve of the Millennium… He reflected on a century marred by wars, strife and division. Despite the horrific unspeakable suffering he endured and witnessed, he remained optimistic. Indifference, he told us that night… is more dangerous than anger and hatred… They both played pivotal role in bringing the Shoah to public consciousness.”
“Dear Hillary,” replied Marion Wiesel. “You’re here, you’re there, you’re everywhere and, tonight, you are here for us.” Reflecting on Theodor Herzl as “a tangible presence” during the year she was a student in Basel, Switzerland, she recalled: “Each day I passed the Drei Konige (Three Kings] Hotel which he made famous. Every citizen of Basel –Jewish or not — knew about him. So here I am again with Herzl and thank you for letting me speak before my husband.” She then kissed Clinton a la francaise — on both cheeks.—and joshed, “If you had a Jabotinsky award, that would be fine, too.” [laughter!]
“For once I have the last word,” began Elie Wiesel. “There were two great men in Europe at that time — Herzl and Freud. Luckily they never met. Just imagine Herzl knocking on the door of Dr. Freud: ‘I had a dream.’ Freud would have said, ‘Sit down. Tell me about your mother.’ [laughter!]
Wiesel recalled Herzl as “one of the heroic legends of the Jewish people… He came from an assimilated family but because of the Dreyfus Affair — France was the center of European anti-Semitism then — he became more Jewish. And that’s how Herzl became the founding ideologist of the modern political Zionist movement.”
Wiesel said, “My first book was in Yiddish: ‘Ven Di Velt Hot Geshvign’ (When the World was Silent). What hurt me most was the world’s silence… Hillary, you know our friendship goes back many, many years. You know…America could have done much more. The fact is that Roosevelt — in that place, in the Oval Office — knew everything that was happening! …As much as we admire Roosevelt — and I do — when it came to save Jews….”
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder declared: “For almost eighty years the World Jewish Congress has been the voice of the Jewish people around the world… Seventy years and three generations after the Second World War, it is acceptable again, to utter anti-Semitic statements out loud.”
The evening was enriched by Itzhak Perlman’s performance of three works including the wrenching theme from “Schindler List. Among the cosmopolitan crowd — Jo Carole Lauder, Ralph and Ricky Lauren, New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, Malcolm Hoenlein, Kenneth Bialkin, Abe Foxman — and on the sidelines, in a silver beaded black velvet gown stood Clinton’s cheery aide Huma Abedin.