On Saturday, December 15th, 2012, the Levantine Cultural Center will hold its annual East-West Awards Gala at the Beverly Hill's Women's Club. The East-West Awards recognize the sustained efforts of outstanding individuals working in the United States to bridge political and religious divides that may exist between Americans and the Middle East/North Africa, whether through media, peace activism or interfaith unity.
The full program includes a red-carpet reception and silent auction, live music, comedy with Aron Kader, dinner and the awards ceremony. Distinguished honorees are Ms. Zainab Al-Suwaij, Dr. Reza Aslan, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, and mayoral candidate and Councilman Eric Garcetti, who are being honored for significant contributions in cultural diplomacy, relationship-buidling, interfaith alliances, and peace activism.
All proceeds will benefit the Levantine Cultural Center, a 501(c)3 founded 11 years ago as a grassroots nonprofit organization that champions a greater understanding of the Middle East/North Africa and our communities in diaspora. This year's gala intends to raise capital to build a new, more self-sustaining cultural arts center for the Middle East and North Africa in Los Angeles. Southern California is home to the largest community of people from the Middle East and North Africa in the United States. It is high time that we had a multidisciplinary arts center that will serve as a focal point and hub for our many cultures.
Zainab Al-Suwaij • East West Vision of Peace Award
Zainab Al-Suwaij, a native of Iraq, is a co-founder of the American Islamic Congress (AIC), which works to change the discourse within both the American Muslim community and in the broader American society. She has been the AIC's Executive Director since its inception in 2001. In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks Zainab left her teaching position at Yale to launch AIC with the mission of building interfaith and interethnic understanding, and to represent the diversity of American Muslim life. Over the past decade, Zainab's leadership has expanded AIC into an international organization with six bureaus worldwide, including the U.S., Egypt, Iraq, and its newest location, Tunisia.
Dr. Reza Aslan • East-West Media Award An internationally acclaimed writer and scholar of religions, Reza is the founder of AslanMedia.com, an online journal for news and entertainment about the Middle East and the world. Reza Aslan has degrees in Religions from Santa Clara University, Harvard University, and the University of California, Santa Barbara, as well as a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Abraham's Vision, an educational, conflict transformation organization for Israeli and Palestinian youths; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world. Reza Aslan has been a frequent guest on the Daily Show and many other cable news stations. His many books and edited anthologies are important contributions to the dialogue about Islam and the West, and US - Iran relations.He is now the Wallerstein Professor at Drew University's Center on Religion, Culture, and Conflict in New Jersey.
Rabbi Leonard Beerman • East-West Freedom Award
A rare blend of disciplined scholar and sensitive humanitarian, Rabbi Beerman was founding rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, where he served for over 37 years. Long active on subjects concerning peace and social justice, he co-chaired the Los Angeles Commission on Sweatshops, and co-founded the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race. Although deemed "controversial" by some, Rabbi Beerman holds tight to the belief that in the Middle East, there must be "justice for both Jews and Arabs, for Israelis and Palestinians."
Eric Garcetti • East-West Bridgebuilder Award
As the third-term councilmember serving the 13th Council District, Garcetti has shown that a commitment to the street-level health of the community is a necessary first step in creating positive change. A fourth-generation Angeleno, Eric Garcetti oversaw the economic and cultural revitalization of Hollywood, and helped bring thousands of new high wage jobs to Los Angeles and his district. His work has been recognized in dozens of awards, including the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award for Americans under 40 who are changing their communities with a commitment to public service. Prior to election, Garcetti taught public policy, diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College and the University of Southern California. Eric is being honored for his decisive role in the launch of the Los Angeles Beirut Sister City relationship, bridging Angelenos and Beirutis through business and cultural exchange.
When & Where
The Markaz champions a greater understanding of the Middle East and North Africa by presenting artistic and educational programs that bridge political and religious divides. In a search for common ground, the Markaz fosters discussions among artists and thinkers and offers classes and workshops that serve diverse ethnic communities.