La Fonte Nesbitt welcomed guests to the 14th annual awards luncheon.
|Thursday (Holocaust Remembrance Project Awards
Event) and Friday (Good Bye).
On Thursday morning, all participants in the 2008 Holocaust Remembrance Project had an opportunity to meet with Daoud Hari, a survivor of current day genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. Mr. Hari is the author of The Translator, and spoke about the world he left behind and his concern for his people. His words prompted the teachers to begin organizing a relief effort for refugees from the Darfur region.
The 14th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Project Awards Event followed the morning meeting. The event took place at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C where more than 250 attorneys, staff, clients and other guests attended a luncheon honoring the 10 essay finalists, their family and educators, and our projects visiting Holocaust survivors.
La Fonte Nesbitt of Holland & Knight opened the luncheon and introduced the master of ceremonies, Kris Van Cleave of ABC7/WJLA-TV and News Channel 8. Managing Partner Steven Sonberg also welcomed those in attendance. Alan Vollmann introduced the keynote speaker and his father-in-law, W. Michael Blumenthal, former U.S. Secretary of Treasury and the president of the Jewish Museum of Berlin.
Mr. Blumenthal is also the author of The Invisible Wall, a book about the relationships between the Germans and Jewish told through a history of his family. During his keynote address, Mr. Blumenthal spoke about how individuals can and should make a difference in preventing similar events from occurring. He explained how he feels that lessons drawn from the Holocaust should focus on its application to current issues and a celebration of the human spirit of those who survived and those who helped the victims. Each luncheon guest received a copy of The Invisible Wall.
After the poignant keynote address, the 10 finalists were presented and awarded medals by Steven Sonberg. Three essays qualified for special recognition. Robert Chasnow and his sister Linda presented Alexa Bryn with the Herman Chasnow Memorial Scholarship, the top scholarship for $10,000. Whitney May was awarded the $5,000 Tiedemann Family Righteous Among the Nations Scholarship by Chad Tiedemann and his wife Paula. Sarah Tryon was awarded the $3,000 Janis & Philip D. Schiff Humanitarian Scholarship by Janis Schiff, her husband Phil and their son Justin. Each of the seven remaining finalists received a scholarship for $2,500.
Immediately following the Awards Event, the entire Holocaust Remembrance Project group was honored at a special reception hosted at the U.S. House of Representatives. The reception was hosted by U.S. Congressman Robert Wexler, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Europe. Visiting Representatives included Adam Schiff, Mark Souder, Janice Schakowsky, Tim Mahoney, Steve Rothman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Joe Wilson. Each student introduced one of the visiting Holocaust survivors to a room filled with Members and their staff.
In the evening, the group hit Union Station for some pizza and last minute souvenir shopping, followed by photo swapping and ice cream at the hotel.
On Friday morning, the farewell circle formed in our meeting room where the students, teachers, and Holocaust survivors met formally for the last time. This was a time of reflection, emotion, gratitude, and a multitude of pledges to never forget. And most of all it was a time to make the pledge that Michael Blumenthal put so well in his key note remarks – to never look away, but accept the moral responsibility to fight evil in all its forms.