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Annual Simon Wiesenthal Center dinner honors Les Moonves, raises $2.6 million to combat anti-Semitism

Leslie Moonves
Les Moonves, recipient of the Humanitarian Award at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2018 National Tribute Dinner, speaks at the Beverly Hills event on Thursday night.
(Benjamin Shmikler / ABImages)

At the National Tribute Dinner for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance on Thursday, guests learned three things about Leslie Moonves, CBS chairman and chief executive officer and the recipient of the center’s Humanitarian Award:

1. Jeffrey Katzenberg revealed that in forming DreamWorks back in 1994, he and his partners, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, asked Moonves or “more accurately … begged” Moonves to become a fourth partner. Given his television successes at the time, however, Moonves passed on the opportunity.

2. Moonves is the great-nephew of David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel and, coincidentally, the posthumous recipient of the medal of valor presented this same night.

3. Moonves started his career in entertainment as an actor. “It’s true,” joked event host James Corden. “Les is the poster boy for failed actors all across Los Angeles, showing them they can do so much more than just drive for Uber,” adding, “although I will say his acting career was not a complete failure. He did once play a small role in ‘The Six Million Dollar Man,’ and now look at him. He is literally the $6-million-a-month man.”

The event

Simon Wiesenthal Center Dinner
Larry Mizel, from left, Rabbi Marvin Hier, James Corden, Les Moonves, Rabbi Meyer H. May and Rabbi Abraham Cooper on the arrivals carpet at the 2018 National Tribute Dinner. Benjamin Shmikler / ABImages

The dinner, which was at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, raised a record-breaking $2.6 million for the organization’s mission to confront anti-Semitism, bigotry and racism; defend Israel’s legitimacy; and protect the safety of Jewish people worldwide.

The crowd

Hollywood elite filled the ballroom, among them dinner chairs Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom; Jon Feltheimer, chief executive of Lionsgate Entertainment; Jim Gianopulos, chairman and chief executive of Paramount Pictures; Katzenberg, partner in new media company WndrCo; Ron Meyer, NBCUniversal vice chairman; Kevin Tsujihara, chairman and chief executive of Warner Bros.; and Tony Vinciquerra, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures. There, too, were noted producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Chuck Lorre and Brian Grazer as well as Lynda Carter (“Wonder Woman”); Jermaine Fowler (“Superior Donuts”); and “Big Brother” host and “The Talk” cohost Julie Chen, Moonves’ wife.

Simon Wiesenthal Dinner
Attendees at the March 22 dinner honoring Moonves included Lynda Carter, from left, Jerry Bruckheimer and Jermaine Fowler. Benjamin Shmikler / ABImages

The program

Following remarks by Katzenberg and others, the Wiesenthal center presented medals of valor to Alon Ben-Gurion, who accepted on behalf of his grandfather, and to outspoken human rights advocate Raheel Raza, who shared that she’s listed as the sixth most-hated Muslim activist on an extremist website, “and you know what,” she said, “I plan to be No. 1.”

The quote

After accepting the Humanitarian Award, Moonves spoke of the center’s importance at this moment. “We live in a world today where there are forces, powerful forces, that are tolerant all right. They’re tolerant of the wrong things. Tolerant of racism. Tolerant of anti-Semitism — of violence and hatred …” he said. “This organization battles that and stands up for true tolerance and celebrates and teaches genuine tolerance for each other’s beliefs for our differences, and in doing so, it has taught millions to reject hatred, violence and racism. There is no more important lesson as we stand here today.”

The numbers

Tickets for the 800 guests began at $1,500 for two and ranged up to $250,000 for two tables.

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