American Jewish Committee Award Given to Truist CEO
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American Jewish Committee Award Given to Truist CEO

The annual AJC dinner and award presentation at the St. Regis Hotel fell in tumultuous times vis a vis rising antisemitism and the events of Oct. 7.

After 35 years with the Atlanta newspapers, Marcia currently serves as Retail VP for the Buckhead Business Association, where she delivers news and trends (laced with a little gossip).

Award honoree Bill Rogers (center) posed with Chris Sawyer (left) and the Rev. Sam Candler (right).
Award honoree Bill Rogers (center) posed with Chris Sawyer (left) and the Rev. Sam Candler (right).

Awards come and go, as this year’s AJC event was elevated to a new level when local Jewry looked to other community leaders to reinforce their support for Israel, building interfaith bridges, and disdain for antisemitism.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, The St. Regis Hotel ballroom hosted 500-plus financial, business, and nonprofit category leaders, ranging from UPS to Home Depot to do just that.

Before Truist CEO Bill Rogers accepted the National Human Relations Award from previous recipient Marty Flannigan, chairman emeritus Invesco LTD, AJC Regional Director and National Director Black/Jewish Relations Dov Wilker delivered a most impassioned talk coming off a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece that Rogers himself said he read a dozen times.

UPS CEO Carol Tome, previous award recipient, praised the selection of Bill Rogers for this year; also pictured are Ramon Tome and Cathy Scott.

Before a meal of sea bass and roasted broccoli, gnocchi, and sundried tomato pesto, the Rev. Sean Smith, New Horizon Baptist Church and Project Interchange alum, gave the invocation beginning with a song, and ending, “We are on sacred ground, beautiful yet complicated … Leaving us with questions versus answers, in this shared community in the face of G-d.”

AJC Atlanta President Belinda Morris welcomed the crowd as she re-imagined the possibilities with Atlanta leadership and announced that $850,000 was raised just that evening.

She noted, “Since the ‘90s, I have been traveling intermittently for the AJC, opening in Warsaw, all building bridges of understanding, up and until the past 90 days, speaking out to free the hostages. AJC strives for a better world and not just for Jews.”

A compelling video was shown decrying the hostage taking and family tragedies of Oct. 7.

AJC’s Dov Wilker chatted with Meghan Pietrantonio, from Truist, with whom he attended Leadership Atlanta.

Wilker took the podium to deliver one of his most hard-hitting talks about the power of “you,” as individuals.

“Despite the panic of the past 41 days, tonight is a bright light with our solidarity with those who feel hope and unity … to join in and call out injustice.”

Recounting a history of tragedies like at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, and the subsequent increasing cost of mounting security, Wilker said, “It takes courage to walk into a Jewish event like this … and [tonight] makes me hopeful.”

Wilker and family recently participated in the DC Unity walk. Note that the pre-function area, the hallways, and the expansive ballroom were well covered with security detail.

After dinner, Jenna Kelly, group regional president of Truist Financial Corporation, stated, “Bill is the definition of inclusivity. He was ahead of his time. He sought out people from diverse backgrounds for executive roles long before it was popular.”

Honoree William H. “Bill” Rogers, chairman and chief executive officer Truist Financial Corporation, expressed his humility for being selected for this “profound honor.” He recognized the AJC for making the globe safer for the world in general, not just Jewish people, and fundamentally believing in the power of the people.

AJC supporters Lenny Silverstein (past AJC President), Clayton State University professor Larry Menter, and Jack Halpern are community stalwarts.

He stated, “As I dig deeper in history back 100 years to now, I recognize the AJC’s role in securing world peace. Unfortunately, antisemitism is the oldest form of hatred and not aging out. We need to replace hatred with kindness and respect … so we can wake up to [knowing] we are better together supporting each other … Be on the field and not on the sidelines!”

During the pre-function cocktail hour, Carol Tome, CEO of UPS, and previous 2019 AJC honoree, told the AJT, “Bill is a man of purpose and so well deserves this award.” Tome is also retired as COO and EVP of The Home Depot.

Current AJC president Belinda Morris was proud that the event raised $850,000. (File Photo)

Robin Bren echoed, “Truist is passionate about the Jewish cause and plight and committed to making changes.”

The mission of American Jewish Committee is building bridges of understanding among all people, safeguarding democracy and pluralism, and combating all forms of bigotry. Together they counter antisemitism, open new doors for Israel, and advance democratic values.

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