Activists Combating Antisemitism, HBO Documentary Films, Leading Law Firms to Receive Awards during Human Rights First Dinner Tonight
New York City – Tonight at Human Rights First’s annual awards dinner at Chelsea Piers in New York City, the organization will honor European human rights activists Jane Braden-Golay, Siavosh Derakhti, and Niddal El-Jabri with its 2015 Human Rights First Award. The three activists are being recognized for their courage, determination, and innovation in combating religious intolerance and the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Human Rights First will also present its 2015 Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment to HBO Documentary Films for its powerful original productions that address a wide range of pressing human rights issues. Emmy-award winning journalist Meredith Vieira will host the evening’s celebration. Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, will accept the Lumet Award.
“Amid the darkness of anti-Semitic violence and hatred, these three young activists are lighting the way towards a better future,” said Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “We are inspired by their courage and determination, and we share their conviction that people from diverse faiths must come together to defeat hatred and build communities of tolerance. Like us, they know that antisemitism is a threat not only to Jews, but to all who value democracy and human dignity.”
Antisemitism is surging across Europe. Stoked by ascendant far-right parties and violent extremists trying to lay claim to Islam, mounting hatred has led to an increase in anti-Semitic attacks and worries that the continent is becoming unsafe for Jews. Historically, when antisemitism goes unchecked it leads to attacks on other vulnerable minorities and eventually to societal breakdown.
This year’s winners are each working to raise awareness about the scourge of antisemitism and to find long-term solutions rooted in tolerance and an appreciation for diversity. This year’s award recognizes the following accomplishments:
- Jane Braden-Golay is originally from Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and studied Religious Studies, Public Law and Education at the University of Zurich. She was elected vice president of the European Union of Jewish Students and served for four years in that position. Since January 2014, she has been the president of the organization and based in Brussels, Belgium. Braden-Golay has worked ceaselessly as a young Jewish voice to raise awareness on antisemitism and empower activists to take action. She successfully pressed to include the perspectives of young Jewish leaders in high-level policy meetings, necessary for any discussion relating to the future of the community. She has focused on alliance building and intercultural solidarity, local grassroots projects, and confronting progressively extreme political forces in Europe.
- Siavosh Derakhti was still in high school when he became concerned about intolerance towards Jews in his home town of Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city. In 2010, at age 19, he formed an organization, Young Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, to educate young people about the dangers of antisemitism, racism, and xenophobia, including traveling with youth to Auschwitz, and to speak out against desecration of Jewish sites and physical attacks on Jews, for which Malmo was developing a bad reputation. Derakhti continues to organize, despite receiving threats for his work. His organization is now called Young People Against Anti-Semitism and Xenophobia and leads through events like the Stockholm Ring of Peace. Some have labeled him a traitor and called for his death.
- Niddal El-Jabri, whose family is Palestinian, felt the need to reach out to the Jewish community in his home city to demonstrate support and solidarity after the fatal attack on the Krystalgade Synagogue in Copenhagen in February. He came up with a plan to form a ring of peace. On March 14, a month after the attack, over a thousand Danes from diverse backgrounds—including the father of the volunteer security guard killed outside the synagogue, Denmark’s chief rabbi, and government ministers—formed a human chain to demonstrate unity and tolerance in the face of hateful violence.
Each year, the Sidney Lumet Award honors a work of popular culture that advances understanding of pressing human rights issues. Through its documentary films focused on issues of war and peace, interrogation and torture, hate crime and discrimination, the rights of LGBT people, freedom of speech, domestic violence, and the revolutions of the Arab Spring, HBO Documentary films is motivating global audiences to demand action and solutions to some of the most dire human rights problems.
Tonight’s program will also recognize this year’s winners of the Marvin Frankel Award for extraordinary commitment to providing pro bono legal representation to individuals who have fled persecution and seek asylum in the United States. Human Right First will honor Akin Gump in Washington, D.C., Chadbourne & Parke in New York City, and Jones Day in Houston for their exemplary support for the influx of refugees needing services arriving at the U.S. southern border.