The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) last week bestowed the very first Athens-Wishner Award on Congressman Gus Bilirakis in Washington, D.C.
The award, named in honor of the legacies of Andrew Athens and Maynard Wishner, was bestowed upon Bilirakis for his leadership on Eastern Mediterranean policy issues and for his tireless advocacy for strong Greco-Israeli-Cypriot relations and ties between the Jewish and Hellenic diasporas.
In the early 1980s, American Jews and their Greek-American partners began to focus intensively on building up the already-existing lower-level ties between Greece and Israel. Efforts spearheaded by Andrew Athens, the chairman of the United Hellenic American Congress, and Maynard Wishner, the AJC’s long-time national leader, contributed to the upgrade in relations between Greece and Israel in 1990.
Congressman Bilirakis and his co-chair on the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance caucus, Congressman Ted Deutch, were joint recipients of the Athens-Wishner Award this year, the first time it has been presented.
“I was absolutely humbled to receive this award. I personally knew and worked with Andy Athens in his tireless efforts to promote Orthodoxy, Hellenism, and the Greek-Israel bond. Coupled with Mr. Wishner’s vision and dedication to bring together the two communities, this makes this award one of the most meaningful honors I have received,” Bilirakis said.
The longtime Florida Congressman then added “I will continue to work in their memories to ensure that the US Congress does its part to strengthen the Greece, Cyprus, and Israel alliance.”
The Greek-American Representative received the award from officials of the HALC and AJC in the presence of Patriarch Theofilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.
During the ceremony, Endy Zemenides, the Executive Director of HALC, noted that since the greatest policy achievement of the Athens-Wishner partnership occurred during the administration of Konstantinos Mitsotakis, it was fitting that Congressman Bilirakis received this award on the heels of the passage of his Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act during the administration of his son, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.