LOS ANGELES (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League awarded film director Steven Spielberg its America’s Democratic Legacy award.
"Steven has put up the mirror of conscience to the world," ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in conferring the award on Spielberg on Wednesday night at a star-studded gala in Beverly Hills, Calif. "He has given us the gift of memory."
The ADL awarded Spielberg’s both for his films and for establishing the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has videotaped the testimony of 52,000 survivors.
"Your masterpiece, ‘Schindler’s List,’ literally changed the way we teach about Jewish history and the Holocaust and it arrived at exactly the time when we started to see a startling rise in Holocaust denial," Foxman said.
Spielberg struck a typically optimistic note in accepting the award, invoking the affirmative message of Chanukah. "Intolerance is not encoded in our DNA," he said. "What is encoded is our curiosity and the ability to learn quickly. We Jews have always had a passion for great stories and I myself have been galvanized by Jewish history, especially when speaking out against intolerance."
Actor Kirk Douglas, whom the audience serenaded on his 93rd birthday the same day, pronounced the blessings, in Hebrew, over the wine and bread.
Singer Adam Lambert of "American Idol" fame, opened the evening with an emotional rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner," followed by Israel’s Noa Dori with "Hatikvah." Actress Drew Barrymore gave the opening and closing remarks.
Previous recipients include former U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Harry S. Truman; as well as Colin Powell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, Justice Earl Warren, Saul Bellow, George Tenet, Henry Kissinger, Lee Iacocca, Walter Annenberg, Dwayne Andreas, Bernard Marcus and Cardinal John O’Connor.
The award has also been presented to Harvard University, The New York Times and the Columbia Broadcasting System.
The ADL raised $2 million at the event, which drew 1,100 guests to the Beverly Hilton hotel.