Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center to Honour Champion of Freedom and Humanity

December 20, 2018

Media Release

Toronto (December 20, 2018) – FSWC announced today it plans to bestow its most prestigious honour, the Award for Human Rights, on famed champion of freedom and human rights, Mr. Natan Sharansky. Mr. Sharansky became a symbol that would bring down the Iron Curtain and free over one million Soviet Jews who made their way to Israel for a better life. He is the only non-American recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

"I cannot think of a better person to receive our community’s highest recognition and embrace than Mr. Sharansky," said Mr. Paul Bronfman, who will chair the Spirit of Hope dinner on May 23, 2019 where the award will be conferred. "Our young generation and even us – we need to be reminded about holding on to our principles and convictions; about not being pushed around because of our faith; and about standing up for our nation and our people in the face of antisemitism."

In defiance, Mr. Sharansky yelled "Next year in Jerusalem" in a Soviet courtroom which sentenced him to 13 years in prison in 1978. Labelled a "Refusenik" for refusing to renounce his convictions – including being a proud Jew with aspirations to make Aliyah – he was forced to serve his sentence in hard labour and solitary confinement.

"There is great message for all of us in Mr. Sharansky’s story: stand up for Israel, for your faith and for freedom, democracy and human rights," said FSWC President and CEO Avi Benlolo. "In an age of moral and ethical turbulence – when freedom and democracy are at risk and Israel is being delegitimized – the honouring of Mr. Sharansky and retelling his story showcases the struggle of the Jewish people and the universality of humanity."

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) is a top Jewish human rights foundation committed to countering racism and antisemitism and to promoting the principles of tolerance, social justice and Canadian democratic values through advocacy and educational programs.

For information about this event and to apply to join the Honour Scroll, please contact Ariel Waks: or by phone at 416-864-9735 ext. 24.

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