Henry Winkler Receives Jewish Culture and Activism Award With Daughter Zoe: “We Are Still Here”

Henry Winkler and his daughter Zoe Winkler Reinis were honored by Jewish social justice nonprofit The Workers Circle at a cocktail ceremony in Calabasas on Thursday evening. The father and daughter pair were presented with the Generation to Generation Jewish Culture and Activism Award in recognition of their years-long humanitarian efforts towards caring for children.

“Tonight we’re celebrating Henry and Zoe and their shared commitment to making the world a better place for all,” The Workers Circle CEO Ann Toback said before telling guests in Yiddish, “Together they have changed the world for the better many times over.”

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Winkler, though most known for his 50-year acting career spanning award-winning roles on the 1970s sitcom Happy Days through today’s HBO comedy crime drama Barry, has authored 39 children’s books and sat on the board of many notable youth organizations, including being a founding member of the Children’s Action Network, honorary chairman of United Friends of the Children, the first national honorary chairman of the Epilepsy Foundation of America and national chairman of the annual Toys for Tots campaign, as well as being a member of the National Committee for Arts for the Handicapped and the Los Angeles Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival for children.

Asked what aspect of the Jewish culture he most takes pride in, Winkler, who joined the ceremony via Zoom, said, “Aside from matzah, what I really love is that for 5,000 years somehow society tried to eradicate Jews and the Jewish religion, and for 5,000 years we are still here, and we are still giving back to the world in general. They say that you can take everything away from me, but you cannot take away what is in my mind. Jews have been dispossessed over the centuries, but they have always taken their tenacity, their knowledge and their tradition with them.”

Following in her father’s footsteps, in 2018, Reinis founded This Is About Humanity, which helps families who’ve been separated and reunited at the border. The organization currently works with 12 shelters in Tijuana where it feeds 3,100 people six days a week. Last year, the group also built nine learning libraries throughout the city to help children get their necessary papers to attend school.

“What’s been instilled in me is that as a Jewish person you care for every single person; your cause isn’t just about you, you take on other people’s causes, too,” said the former schoolteacher, who credited the example set by her father and mother for her activism today. “I grew up in a house where giving back was not an option. It was instilled in us, and I believe that that comes from our religion but also just who we are as people.”

In addition to honoring the Winklers, the $1,000 ticketed event served as a fundraiser for training and mentorship of the next generation of young activists. Attendees, which included members of the Black Voters Matter organization that has partnered with the group on its efforts, had the option to give monetary donations or bid on a variety of auction items placed throughout private residence.

“The Workers Circle is actively training voting rights activists now,” said Toback. “They’ll be on the ground in 2024 making sure that millions of voters in voter-suppressed states who are facing unreal obstacles can actually get their votes successfully counted.”

The organization’s efforts caught the attention of comedian D.L. Hughley and his wife, LaDonna, who attended the gathering along with All American actor Lamon Archey. “None of us are going to be any better off if we don’t extend ourselves and try to learn as much as we can about whoever we’re talking to,” Hughley told The Hollywood Reporter. “This is an opportunity.”

As for the honor that was bestowed on him, Winkler said he was “over the moon” to be recognized alongside his daughter and grateful to still be acting and giving back at age 78.

“I am amazed that I am still able to do what it was I dreamt of doing at eight on 78th Street and Broadway in New York, and that I’m still here enjoying my dream,” he told THR. “I do not take that for granted ever.”

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