The East-West Awards recognize the sustained efforts of 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. You can download the PDF here to reserve your seats or place an ad in the program.
Previous East-West Award winners include women's rights activist and philanthropist Bana Hilal, author and CODEPINK cofounder Jodie Evans, and reporter/author Roxana Saberi.
This year, we acknowledge the many years of work to bridge Americans and the Arab/Muslim world by Iraqi-American Zainab al-Suwaij, cofounder of the American Islamic Congress in Washington, DC. We will present the East-West Media Award this year to Dr. Reza Aslan, whose numerous books, anthologies and public lectures and television appearances have broadened our understanding of Iran, Israelis and Palestinians, and the Muslim world. Likewise, we are pleased to recognize the decades of interfaith outreach and peace activist of Rabbi Leonard Beerman, founding rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple. This year's East-West Bridgebuilder Award will go to Councilman Eric Garcetti, who was instrumental in establishing the Los Angeles-Beirut Sister City relationship in 2006.
Zainab Al-Suwaij East-West Vision of Peace Award Zainab al-Suwaij 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. Under her direction, AIC has trained hundreds of young Middle Eastern activists in the methods of non-violent protest and social media mobilization, empowering them to take on regimes during the Arab Spring. In Iraq, she launched a program that disrupts and mediates tribal and sectarian violence as it happens, saving dozens of lives in Basra and Baghdad. Zainab's vision for acceptance and understanding in the U.S. is being realized through AIC's growing campus initiative, Project Nur, as well as its Interfaith Councils and groundbreaking Witness Series. Zainab is an outspoken advocate for women's equality, civil rights, and interfaith understanding. She has briefed Congress and the White House and has been invited to speak at numerous panel events, universities, and think tanks. Zainab has published editorials in the three largest American newspapers: The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. She has appeared on NPR, BBC, Al-Jazeera, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. Named an "Ambassador of Peace" by the Interreligious and International Peace Council, Zainab has received Dialogue on Diversity's Liberty Award and was recognized as "2006 International Person of the Year" by the National Liberty Museum. Raised in Basra, Iraq, Zainab fled the country after participating in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein and now is a U.S. citizen living in the Washington, D.C. area.
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; and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.
Aslan's first book is the International Bestseller, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into thirteen languages, and named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade. He is also the author of How to Win a Cosmic War (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.
Reza Aslan is Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of BoomGen Studios, the premier entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Greater Middle East and President of AppOvation Labs, a mobile applications company. Born in Iran, he lives in New York with his wife (author and entrepreneur Jessica Jackley).
Rabbi Leonard Beerman, East-West Freedom Award Leonard Beerman is the Founding Rabbi of Leo Baeck Temple in west Los Angeles. He has been a major figure in the interfaith movement (bio/photo pending).
Eric Garcetti, East-West Bridgebuilder Award "You can't look to the stars until you've fixed the cracks in the sidewalk," Los Angeles City Councilmember Eric Garcetti often says. 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. His unique combination of pothole politics and vision has won measurable results in the 13th District, showing how local solutions can show the way to make our city safer, create transportation solutions, and ease the city's housing crisis. A fourth-generation Angeleno, Eric Garcetti oversaw the economic and cultural revitalization of Hollywood, wrote and championed Proposition O to clean up our local water, won passage of a plan that eliminated the city's business tax for 60% of all businesses, and helped bring thousands of new high wage jobs to Los Angeles and his district. In his district, he tackled neighborhoods' most intractable problems, nearly tripled the number of parks, ensuring the availability of an after-school program in every school in the district, and reducing graffiti by more than 60 percent.
Councilmember Garcetti's 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; the Green Cross Millennium Award from former President Mikhail Gorbachev, for environmental leadership; a "Tiger Award" from the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, for his work on business tax reform; the New Democrat of the Week recognition from the Democratic Leadership Council, for his work on safety in commercial office buildings and security officers' working conditions; and the first Olson Award from Human Rights Watch for his human rights activism.
The Los Angeles Times writes that Garcetti is "smart" and "imaginative" and offers the city "refreshing idealism." He was featured in LA Weekly's Best of Los Angeles issue and the Los Angeles Alternative Press readers named him "L.A.'s Favorite Elected Official" of 2003. In 2004, The Los Angeles Business Journal named him one of the 25 Angelenos who stand out for their potential to shape lives in Los Angeles. A profile in Los Angeles magazine in 2006 called him "a rising star."
Prior to his election, Garcetti taught public policy, diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College and the University of Southern California. In 1998, the Rockefeller Foundation selected him as a Next Generation Leadership Fellow. Garcetti studied urban planning and political science at Columbia University, where he received his B.A. and M.A. in International Relations. He studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. He is an avid photographer, jazz pianist and composer. He lives in Silver Lake with his wife, Amy Elaine Wakeland.
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.