Former Jewish Exponent columnist Wolf Blitzer, who is also that Wolf Blitzer, CNN anchor, is coming to the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History on May 1.
Blitzer, 74, an Emmy Award-winning journalist who started at CNN in 1990, will be honored by the Philadelphia museum at its reopening gala. According to a press release, the event “recognizes the achievements and contributions of American Jews who have significantly impacted American society and culture, often despite facing antisemitism and prejudice.”
The reporter’s parents survived the Holocaust; he remains a proud Jew to this day. He even spent the first extended chapter of his career at the Jerusalem Post from 1973 to 1990. While there, Blitzer wrote a syndicated column that appeared weekly in the Jewish Exponent.
“My Jewish identity is so important,” Blitzer said. “It has been my whole life.”
The Weitzman describes itself as the “only museum dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience.”
With this gala, the museum is reopening to the public after a two-year closure due to the pandemic. (Though it did host virtual events and programs.) It is also reopening for the first time since it was bought out, and saved from bankruptcy, by shoe designer Stuart Weitzman.
The new and improved space will feature a variety of new exhibits, including one focusing on modern antisemitism and using artifacts from the January hostage crisis at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. As it reopens, the Weitzman is trying to live up to its description.
But while the exhibits show that mission of exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience, Blitzer personifies it.
His parents came to America as refugees and, while they were proud Jews, they may have become even prouder Americans, according to Blitzer. The CNN anchor called them “among the most patriotic Americans I have ever known.” They even flew the American flag outside their house year-round, not just on Memorial Day and July 4.
“They truly loved this country, and they were so grateful to the U.S. and the American people,” Blitzer said.
That personal history explains why the Weitzman honor is important to the anchor, despite his many career achievements.
“I just wish my parents, who have both passed away, could have been with us to witness this evening,” he said. “They would have been so proud.”
But for Blitzer, the honor also transcends his personal story. As a Jew, he believes in every aspect of the Weitzman’s mission.
He said it’s important to make sure that the next Jewish generation understands our history. He also thinks it’s perhaps just as vital to help non-Jews gain an appreciation for the history of Jews in America.
“And we do have a very proud history in this country,” Blitzer added.
Misha Galperin, the president and CEO of the Weitzman, believes that Blitzer is a big part of that story. Galperin explained that the museum celebrates “both what America offered to the Jewish people and what the Jewish people give back to America.”
America offered the Blitzer family a chance at freedom and prosperity; and their son grew up to become a renowned journalist who also represents the profession’s lofty values.
“The value of reporting and a free press. All the things responsible and good journalists do,” Galperin said.
Galperin first met Blitzer in 2002 at the home of the Israeli ambassador in Washington, D.C. Since then, he has known Blitzer to be a serious supporter of Jewish causes and institutions like the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Two of Blitzer’s close friends, Ernie Grunfeld (a former NBA player and general manager) and Ed Cohen, say that’s no joke. The man really does care deeply about his religion.
Grunfeld lauded the anchor’s commitment to “shining a light on the events of the Holocaust” and to educating people around the world to “try to ensure that it never happens again.” Cohen said, “The traditions of Judaism are important to him.”
“Things that are part of his makeup that help ground him in a turbulent world,” the friend added.
At the gala, Blitzer will give a speech, enjoy a video about his life and work and stay for the remainder of the event, which will also include the unveiling of the Colleyville exhibition. Then, once it ends, he will continue to encourage visits to the Weitzman, he said.
The CNN anchor called the museum’s mission “more timely than ever.”
His mission, though, remains the same, even in these turbulent and polarized times.
“I believe it’s always best for us to report the news as honestly and as fairly as we can,” Blitzer said. “Ever since I started my career in journalism, I have always tried to do that.” JE