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Breaking a 75-year ‘tradition,’ Saudis Join Jews to Attend Fete

The spirit of peace has brought Jews and Arabs together in recent months to talk, and now to dine and dance.

The American Jewish Congress presented its annual Stephen S. Wise Award this year at a dinner dance attended for the first time by a group from Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi group of diplomats and businessmen paid $10,000 for a table at the posh event Dec. 9, according to the AJCongress’ public relations office.

It was believed to be the first time Arabs attended the event in the AJCongress’ 75-year history.

The award was given to Robert K. Lifton at a black-tie ceremony at the Pierre Hotel in New York.

The Arab delegation joined some 300 guests at the affair, which was marked by speeches and then dancing to a variety of tunes.

Lifton, now completing his third two-year term as president of the AJCongress, received a telegram of congratulations from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Saudis attended because of the good relationship they have enjoyed with Lifton during his tenure, said Belle Faber, assistant executive director of the AJCongress.

Lifton was “very touched” by the appearance, she said.

Among those attending this year’s ceremony were New York Mayor David Dinkins and Mayor-Elect Rudolph Giuliani.

The AJCongress presented the award to Lifton for his “inspiring and dedicated leadership and for his enduring contribution to the advancement of human rights and the safeguarding of the security of Israel.”

Previous recipients of the award include Vice President Walter Mondale; Earl Warren, chief justice of the Supreme Court; Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel; and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

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