May 17, 2024
Close this search box.
Close this search box.
May 17, 2024
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Simon Wiesenthal Center to Honor Heroes at Yankee Event

Mayor Michael Wildes stands with the fire chief and police chief of Englewood.

On Sunday August 20, the Simon Wiesenthal Center will hold its eighth annual “Heroes for Tolerance” event at Yankee Stadium. Michael Cohen, eastern director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said, “We’re so happy to see that there are so many individuals—so many hidden heroes—that do so much to fight antisemitism and bring people together to fight hate in our communities.” The event, which has grown in size every year, helps support the Center’s efforts throughout the year.

Among this year’s distinguished honorees is Michael Wildes, the mayor of the city of Englewood and managing partner at the law firm Wildes and Weinberg, P.C. “What most people don’t understand is the plethora of work that he does fighting antisemitism and fighting for tolerance that go way beyond his ‘official duties,’” Cohen said.

In addition to having served as federal prosecutor (U.S. Attorney’s Office 1989-1993) and an adjunct law professor at Cardozo Law School (since 2011), Wildes is also serving on the New Jersey-Israel Commission, whose “mission is to foster economic, scientific, educational and cultural ties with the State of Israel.” Wildes is passionate about serving all of the different communities in Englewood. “People see him as someone who is part of the Jewish community yet wants to help everyone, and that is really something that brings people together.” Cohen commented, adding that those relationships exist because of Wildes’ efforts and the hard work he does to ensure a harmonious society.

Wildes has been an EMT with Hatzalah for
32 years.

“Both of my grandfathers came through Ellis Island,” Wildes shared. “I had the privilege of walking down the same stairs that both of my grandfathers walked.” However, while one of his grandfathers was fortunate enough to arrive on America’s shores safely before the war, the other had to forge a whole new life in America after escaping Hitler’s Nazi regime. “I have their passports on my mantle as a reminder to myself, as I see the letter ‘J’ and the swastika on them, that the world can go upside down, but that the winds of war need to blow in the direction that will keep America and Israel strong. That is a pursuit, a dream and my daily task.”

Wildes, a big fan of Cohen and the good work that the Simon Wiesenthal Center does, calls Simon Wiesenthal a legend who lived his life in pursuit of justice. He said he is “grateful to live in a country that has given the greatest hospitality to our community, and I am enthralled by the promise of the success of our community, despite its challenges.” He went on to say, “It hit home for me when my firm started to represent Martha Freire, the widow of Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, the Ecuadorian immigrant who was slain in the 2019 Jersey City shooting at a kosher supermarket where he worked.” For the last four years, Wildes has been representing Freire, pro bono, to help her and her daughter secure green cards.

Wildes’ book, “Safe Haven in America: Battles to Open the Golden Door,’’ chronicles other major cases his firm has handled. “We have had the privilege of working with several whistleblowers, defectors, ambassadors, cooperators, witness protection services, and so many very special people who did incredibly heroic things,” he said. Some of those clients include Kwame James, one of the passengers who helped subdue the Shoe Bomber; Richard Reid; and Mohamed Gulab, the Afghan hero who saved Navy Seal Marc Lutrell, as depicted in the film “Lone Survivor.”

“America has always been the home for the greatest risk-takers and entrepreneurs of our time, and it is important for us not to lose that sense of propriety and to always work to ensure that the next generation of leaders, inventors and industrialists will find themselves on our shores; the Jewish community plays a big role in that pursuit.”

Bergen County Clerk John Hogan, a friend of Wildes, will also be on hand to share in the festivities. Named a Hero for Tolerance himself back in 2019, Hogan said: “It goes without saying that it’s challenging times for antisemitism and hate, but thankfully Bergen County is a tolerant place that accepts all races and backgrounds. But to me it sometimes seems that society has become more confrontational and less respectful and understanding.”

Together with his family, Hogan always discusses how to promote respect, understanding and acceptance and promoting tolerance is one of his main goals. He calls Heroes for Tolerance “a great event because it highlights something that should be highlighted so much more in our country these days.”

Dr. Benjamin Chouake, who is also part of the host committee, has known Wildes for many years. “Michael Wildes is a tremendous individual for the community. Aside from being a good attorney on immigration, he is also tremendously community-minded. He’s very capable and very committed and is willing to do the grunt work that it takes to do all these things.

Wildes with his wife and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

“You see the more successful politicians and some of them are just willing to work harder than the next person … in a dramatic way. And that’s Michael. Michael simply outworks his competition and that’s why he’s been successful. But mostly it is because he does it from his heart.”

Before the New York Yankees face off with the Boston Red Sox on August 20, Israel Nitzan, the acting consul general of Israel for New York, will be giving greetings, a tradition at the Heroes for Tolerance event every year since its inception. Cohen explained: “The relationship between the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the consulate is incredibly strong, and we’re so proud to have Israel Nitzan continue that tradition. Because his term is coming to an end, this event will mark his last official appearance as the consul general of Israel. While we are celebrating all these heroes, we look to also celebrate him as well.

“The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the world’s premier organizations fighting antisemitism, and that can’t be done without individuals who give of themselves in such an incredible way,” Cohen added. “A lot of those folks are in the trenches everyday and they deserve to be recognized. This event is a testament to their work.”

To purchase tickets or learn more about the Heroes for Tolerance event visit: or email [email protected] or call 212-697-1180

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles