UJA-Federation of New York’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Division paid tribute to Bonnie Hammer, the chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, at this year’s Leadership Awards Dinner. The event also honored the spirit of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion that has inspired Hammer’s professional and philanthropic work.
“Bonnie passionately cares about fighting for tolerance and promoting acceptance,” said actress Elizabeth Hurley as she presented Hammer with the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award. “She’s taken everything’s she’s touched to unprecedented success, and she is the first woman to receive this prestigious award.”
Actors Meghan Markle and Mark Feuerstein were co-hosts for the event, held June 2nd at 583 Park Avenue. Other celebrities on hand to celebrate Hammer were Paulo Costanzo, Hoda Kotb, Matt Lauer, Sarah Rafferty, Dr. Ruth, Christian Slater, and Gina Torres. Guests also enjoyed a stunning performance by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.
“As a fellow Brooklynite born to immigrant, Jewish parents, I am especially moved to receive this award named for Steve Ross. I am mindful of the humbling fact that I am the first woman to receive this award,” Hammer said. “And I’m certain I’m not going to be the last.”
She shared a moving account of the anti-Semitism she experienced as a college student from a bigoted professor and how it taught her a lesson that informed and influenced much of her career.
“It stayed with me ever since, that prejudice and discrimination based on our differences is an unfortunate fact of life,” Hammer said.
She began developing documentaries about people treated as “other,” including women with AIDS and kids in gangs. This documentary series, which has grown into a campaign against racism, sexism, and “the isms that divide us,” now spans all the cable networks Hammer oversees.
This mission of inclusion is also prevalent in the work that UJA-Federation supports. Hammer experienced a taste of that work when she met Diane Werner, founder of Mosaic of Westchester.
“Diane’s son Adam knew that he was gay since fifth grade, and it broke her heart to see him hide it at school, camp, and at their synagogue,” Hammer said. “Diane witnessed her son’s pain, and decided she had to do something about it. With the support of UJA-Federation and the help of her amazing family, Diane created Mosaic, an organization focused on finding ways for LGBTQ individuals to become connected to, and even more importantly, embraced by their community.”
As she thanked everyone for their warmth and generosity of spirit, Hammer said with conviction, “This award will be a constant reminder to me personally of the power and the responsibility we all have to leave things just a little better than we found them.”