July 19, 2024
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Remembering Our History: Gottheimer Receives Morris Katz Award

Rep. Josh Gottheimer, left, and CEO of OJC Duvi Honig.

In the current political climate it is difficult to find individuals who are committed to understanding the past in order to better face the future. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Dist. 5) is one of these few. That is one reason why on June 20 he was presented with the Morris Katz Award from the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce for his work introducing and advancing the bipartisan Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act. Community leaders and government officials gathered at Mocha Bleu on a sunny morning in downtown Teaneck to welcome and help present the award to Gottheimer.

The event was hosted by The Jewish Link and presented by the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce and the Morris Katz Foundation. Among those present were Bergen County Commissioner Tracy Zur; former Teaneck Deputy Mayor Elie Katz; Teaneck Councilwoman Hillary Goldberg; Teaneck Councilman Mark “Mendy” Schwartz (who is also co-publisher of The Jewish Link); Englewood Councilwoman Lisa Wizotsky; New York Association of Korean American Business President Joseph Yoo; and New Jersey Assemblyman Avi Schnall.

In his speech, Schnall explained that although the current political environment has become “a little rough,” Gottheimer remained committed and unafraid. “Nothing made him think: Should I come or should I not come? Should I do this or should I not do this? Should I speak out, should I not speak out? Should I fight or should I not fight?” said Schnall in acknowledging Gottheimer’s role as an advocate for the Jewish community.

This sentiment of taking action is one of the many reasons why Gottheimer was chosen as the 2024 recipient of the Morris Katz award. Katz, a painter, was born in 1932 Poland and suffered tremendously throughout the Holocaust. Although he managed to survive the camps, many of his family members were not as lucky. After the war, he found himself on the shores of New York as a refugee starting a new life. However his commitment to keeping Shabbat conflicted with most professions so he began painting again. He became renowned as the world’s fastest painter, the “Albert Einstein of Art” and the creator of “instant art.”

Rep. Josh Gottheimer receives the Morris Katz Award.

Although he is most notably known for his collection of the U.S. presidents, a project he took upon himself immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Katz’s commitment to America and American history is apparent throughout his work. Regarding Katz, Duvi Honig, founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said, “Morris is an incredible larger-than-life inspiration to every American Jew, indeed every American.”

It is this link that connected the artist and the congressman. When addressing the crowd, Gottheimer said: “Our job — and I can’t say this enough — is to make sure young people understand what our history is. Not just Jewish American history, or the U.S.-Israel relationship, but all history, so they understand what actually happened.”

He added, “That’s what this fight is about. It’s about good versus evil.” Gottheimer also emphasized the importance of communal unity in this battle. “This is about hate, any form of hate.” He continued to stress shared democratic values. “We must not let that get overcome by hatred. Only then do our enemies win.”


Sara Cohen is a Jewish Link summer intern and an English major at Yeshiva University. You can reach her at [email protected].

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