Year after year, the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) pulls together an impressive roster of A-list political figures to headline it’s Spirit of Hope Gala, and this year is no exception.
This year’s event will feature three former prime ministers: Canada’s Stephen Harper, Israel’s Ehud Barak and Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar.
The trio will reflect on their experiences addressing anti-Semitism, dealing with terrorism, fostering relations with Israel and defending human rights, said Avi Benlolo, chief executive officer of the FSWC.
CBS reporter Lara Logan, who has reported from the Middle East for 60 Minutes, will serve as the moderator of a panel of the one-time prime ministers, Benlolo added.
The 2018 Spirit of Hope will take place on May 30 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Attendance is expected to exceed 2,000, making it “the largest dinner in the Jewish community.” It is also the FSWC’s major annual fundraising event, with gross proceeds estimated to exceed $3.7 million. Tickets range in price from $360 to $100,000, Benlolo stated.
“It’s a very high profile event in the city,” he continued. “We’re thrilled so many people support the work of the organization and the work we do every day.”
Funds from the dinner will go to support FSWC programming in human rights, Holocaust remembrance and youth education. On any given day, at least 250 youngsters benefit from FSWC programming, which deal with issues of anti-Semitism, Holocausts remembrance, women’s rights, cyber-bullying, tolerance and racism, he said.
The “theme” of the Spirit of Hope dinner is “fighting against the odds, fighting anti-Semitism, supporting Israel and defending human rights,” Benlolo said.
One thing the three former prime ministers who will be speaking at the event have in common is their reputation for vigorously opposing terrorism. In addition, Aznar founded the Friends of Israel Initiative, with the goal of countering “the attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders,” the FSWC stated.
Barak, the most decorated soldier in the Israel Defence Forces, served as chief of general staff and minister of defense. In 2000, when he was prime minister, he led the Camp David peace negotiations with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and U.S President Bill Clinton.
Over the course of its 18-year history, the Spirit of Hope has featured prominent speakers and world figures, including: the late Shimon Peres, former prime minister of Israel; former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney; former prime ministers of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair and David Cameron; former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; former U.S. vice-president Al Gore; former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice; former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani; former Australian prime minister John Howard; writers Elie Wiesel and Salman Rushdie; and more.