Oprah Winfrey, Elie Wiesel, and Tom Brokaw paid tribute as David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, received the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award at UJA-Federation of New York’s Entertainment, Media & Communications Leadership Awards Dinner on April 3rd.
More than 400 guests attended the event, held at 583 Park in Manhattan, which raised $1.2 million.
“David is a true humanitarian who teaches us and encourages us to be our best,” said Winfrey. “He uses his personal power for good and uses his life to reach out.” Of UJA-Federation, she said, “I salute your commitment to God’s work here on earth.”
John Hendricks, founder and chairman of Discovery Communications, recognized Zaslav’s “great character and integrity,” and said, “He is guided by an unwavering moral compass that steers him toward remarkable fairness in his business life and endearing compassion and generosity in his personal life.”
Aryeh Bourkoff, chair of the Entertainment, Media & Communications Division, along with Matthew Blank, Michael Fricklas, and Michael Kassan, told the guests, “Your support makes it possible to care for people left out of the bounty so many of us enjoy.”
To get a greater understanding of UJA-Federation, Zaslav visited the Mary J. Blige Center — a program of Westchester Jewish Community Services, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency — that works with underprivileged women.
“The Mary J. Blige Center are the real humanitarians,” he said. “They quietly work every day to make a difference in the lives of women.”
Zaslav also shared a conversation he had with Winfrey a year ago about which interview, out of the thousands she had done over 25 years, had the most impact on her. She told him it was reading Night, written by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and then interviewing Wiesel at Auschwitz.
That discussion led Zaslav to meet Wiesel, who also spoke as part of the tribute.
Journalist Tom Brokaw served as master of ceremonies and also moderated a panel discussion on the Arab Spring. The panelists were David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and associate editor; Robert Ford, United States Ambassador to Syria; and Aaron Miller, distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The evening closed with a performance by Jackson Browne who played guitar and switched to the keyboard for his final songs, including “The Pretender.”