An Evening with Nikki Haley
By Joannie Tansky
While many people make a name for themselves by achieving one or perhaps two worthy mentions in the media over a long period of time, there are very few who, on an almost daily basis for the past two years, stand up to be counted. Ambassador Nikki Haley is one such person.
Partnered by the Jewish Community Council together with Federation CJA and Friends of Migdal Ohr Canada – Tower of Light Children’s Foundation, the Montreal Jewish community had a chance to personally thank the Ambassador for all that she has done for the collective Jewish people and our beloved Israel.
Held in the historic Shaar Hashomayim synagogue in Westmount, over 600 people began to gather for cocktails at 5:30 pm to rub shoulders with Montreal’s who’s who and have a few moments to take a picture with Nikki.
The room was buzzing with excitement in anticipation of hearing this great woman recount what everyone had watched via the news and media – her unwavering strength and courage to stand up to the United Nations in defense of Israel.
Abundant and delicious cocktails, a full bar and plenty of seating, allowed guests to mingle, meet old friends, make new ones, discuss the politics of the day and the main theme, the great achievements of Nikki.
The event ran with military precision. Cocktails ran from 5:30 until 6:35 when the lights flickered, and guests were asked to make their way to the main ballroom for an elegant dinner. It took less than ten minutes for everyone to be seated.
Addressing the assembled at dinner was the Honorable Irwin Cotler.
Professor Cotler is the Chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, an Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, long-time Member of Parliament, and an international human rights lawyer.
As a leading Parliamentarian on the global stage, there was no one more appropriate than Irwin Cotler to articulate the monumental achievements of Ambassador Nikki Haley.
He spoke passionately about human rights, aptly derided the United Nations and praised Nikki for being a continuous beacon of light in a sea of darkness. As the world’s leader in human rights advocacy, Professor Cotler was a wise choice to introduce Nikki.
The Main Event
Guests were quickly and quietly ushered out of the dining room at 8:00 pm to make their way to the storied synagogue for the main event, which began promptly at 8:15 pm. Over 1300 men, women and children packed the room.
David Amiel, President of CJA gave regards and echoed the evening’s theme, a cumulative thank you to Haley. Speaking in both French and English, Mr. Amiel graciously lauded those who organized the evening, thanking Ambassador Haley for her principled and resoluteness as the US Ambassador in the United Nations.
The King David Award
The King David Award was presented to Ambassador Haley by Rabbi Saul Emanuel, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Council.
Rabbi Emanuel opened his remarks by honoring the late Lynn Eltes. After she passed away at a very young age, her family created the Lynn Eltes Educational Fund to ensure children who are in need received a Jewish education.
As he presented Ambassador Haley with the King David Award, Rabbi Emanuel went on to praise Haley for her fearless determination and support of Israel in the face of consistent opposition in the United Nations.
Mrs. Zahava Ungar
No one in that great synagogue could have known what was coming next in this extraordinary evening. Slowly but with great confidence, eighty-eight-year old Mrs. Zahava Ungar made her way to the stage.
Born in Europe 1930, Mrs. Ungar is an elegant, observant Jewish woman. She spent some of her very young years interred in many concentration camps, including Auschwitz –Birkenau. When the war ended, she was liberated in Terenstadt.
Although she only spoke for a few minutes, she made a lasting impression on those present, especially Nikki Haley saying that after leaving Germany she went to Israel and eventually enrolled in the IDF. Today, she is the proud grandmother and great-grandmother of over 100 children and adults. Mrs. Ungar received a sustained, roaring standing ovation.
Ambassador Nikki Haley and Hillel Neuer
There are not many people who are icons in their own time. Ambassador Haley is one such person. Hillel Neuer was a superb choice as the interviewer, passionate in his own right, allowing the ambassador to reveal who she is as a person. He is the executive director of UN Watch and flew in from Geneva to interview Ambassador Haley.
Growing up, she said, her parents instilled in her that telling the truth is the only way to live. She went on to say that the UN reminded her of the bullies of her youth, that she herself was bullied and that she had zero patience for such people.
Eloquently and articulately, she recounted being the lone vote for Israel in the United Nations, standing up to Israel’s bullies and never wavering from her position. Her message to those present was what she accomplished in two years is only the tip of the iceberg – that mountains can and should be moved.
In a startling revelation, she said that most Arab countries envy Israel, but must stand together, united in hate for the only democracy in the Middle East.