First Doña Gracia Award bestowed on businessman for work in educating Spaniards about Jewish history

If, however, there is a needy person among you, one of your kinsmen in any of your settlements in the land that Hashem your God is giving you, do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy kinsman.




(the israel bible)

May 23, 2023

3 min read

The Fundacion HispanoJudía (Jewish Hispanic Foundation) gave its first ever Doña Gracia Award to famed shoe designer and philanthropist Stuart Weitzman in a ceremony last week at the Moise Safra Center in New York.

“Stuart spent 40 years manufacturing his iconic shoes in Spain, and always felt amazed at the extraordinary ignorance of many Spaniards towards their Jewish legacy,” said David Hatchwell, President of the FHJ. “We are fortunate that as a man of action, he immediately understood that the only way to change that would be through systematic education programs that unearth our shared past and the common values that Jews share with the global community of 500 million Spanish-speakers around the world.”

The FHJ is a nonprofit organization that was established in 2016 in Spain with the aim of building bridges of understanding between the Hispanic and Jewish worlds. One of its main projects is the construction of the HispanoJudío Museum in Madrid.

“This award was given in recognition of his outstanding values, achievements, and generosity, and as a sign of gratitude and admiration to him and his family, for their support in building a HispanoJudío Museum in Madrid. He is a true prince of Sefarad. “

 The Doña Garcia Prize is an annual award given by the Fundación HispanoJudia to people or entities for outstanding achievements that represent, defend, and promote the universal values of Judaism. These values, including tzedakah, opportunity, hard work, and tikun olam, are the founding values of the FHJ and the basis for all its educational and cultural programs.

 Gracia Mendes Nasi (1510–1569), also known as Doña Gracia or La Señora (The Lady), was a Portuguese philanthropist and one of the wealthiest Jewish women of Renaissance Europe. She was born into a Jewish family whose members had been forcibly converted to Catholicism in the Inquisition. Gracia develop[ed a network that saved hundreds of Jews from the Inquisition.

“I arrived in Spain 46 years ago and I didn’t know anything about our history there,” said Weitzman upon receiving the award. “Spain is my second home, I am not a Sephardic, but I empathize. There is a hidden story that calls me, and I want to be part of the inheritance of that legacy and work in the re-education of the Hispanic world towards its connection with the Jewish world.”

The event was attended by about 130 people, including a delegation of board members and friends of the FHJ from Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Israel and Spain. Among them, Rav. Sergio Bergman, President of WUPJ (World Union of Progressive Judaism), Chella and Jacob Safra, Philanthropists and Friends of the FHJ, Alan Solomont, Former Ambassador of USA in Spain and Andorra, Jason Guberman, CEO of the American Sephardic Federation, Aaron Nomaz, author of the book “Doña Gracia: The woman who led Jews to safety in Muslim lands”, Pablo Kleinman, president of HJE (Hispanic Jewish Endowment), sister Foundation of the FHJ in the USA, and presidents of the associations of friends of the FHJ: Elissa Wuliger (New York), Shulamit Serur de Shrem (Mexico), and Alejandro Pitashny (Argentina).

 “We’ve held over 135 events around the world, but tonight we’re kicking it off in an American way,”  said Elissa Wulliger, head of the New York branch of the Friends of the FHJ. “We are gathered here today to honor Stuart Weitzman, not only for his incredible generosity, but also for his dedication to the Fundación HispanoJudia and Jewish causes around the world. Stuart and his wife, Jane, are both truly a force for good and have set incredibly high standards for Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam for all of us. We thank them for their assistance in building a Jewish heritage museum in Madrid where technology and history will come together to create a truly unique experience.“

“The launch of the HispanoJudío Museum is imminent, and its influence will radiate gran territories, as so far was done by the HispanoJudía Foundation: Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Israel, the United States (NY and Miami).”

 The FHJ is a non-profit organization established in 2016 in Spain with the aim of building bridges of understanding between the Hispanic and Jewish worlds. One of its main projects is the construction of the HispanoJudío Museum in Madrid.

 It has established Associations of Friends of the FHJ in Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Israel and the US with a Board of Trustees of 75 prominent philanthropists, an international committee of 20 advisers, and an executive committee made up of Jewish and non-Jewish personalities.

 The Foundation promotes educational and cultural programs that create understanding and show the shared values between Hispanics and Jewish people. It works toward the recovery of the historical memory of the role played throughout many centuries by the Jews in Spain and in Europe. Last year, Weitzman announced a $1 million donation to the Philadelphia-based National Museum of American Jewish History, saving it from bankruptcy. In 2022, he launched a $5 million matching scholarship fund with Maccabi USA. Weitsman is 82 but he also competed in the  Maccabiah Games playing Table Tennis.

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