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Hollywood, ADL gather to honor ‘The Bible’ power producers

by Ryan Torok

May 9, 2014 | 1:51 pm

<em>From left: ADL regional director Amanda Susskind; honorees Mark Burnett and Roma Downey; "Survivor" host Jeff Probst and ADL national director Abe Foxman attended ADL's 2014 Entertainment Industry Dinner. Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg also turned out. Photo by Ryan Torok.</em>

From left: ADL regional director Amanda Susskind; honorees Mark Burnett and Roma Downey; "Survivor" host Jeff Probst and ADL national director Abe Foxman attended ADL's 2014 Entertainment Industry Dinner. Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg also turned out. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Actress, producer and philanthropist Roma Downey, who was born in Northern Ireland, speculated that Jesus must have been Irish, too.

“Many wonder if Jesus was Irish. He never got married, he lived at home until he was 30 and his mother thought he was God,” she said, speaking to a crowd of approximately 500 people who gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel last night, May 9, where Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett, received the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2014 Entertainment Industry Award.

“That’s how you know he was Jewish” came the muttered response of someone in the audience.

The ADL Entertainment Industry Award, an annual honor given out by the ADL, is awarded “to individuals based on leadership and extraordinary innovation in the entertainment industry,” an ADL statement said.

“It’s an acknowledgement of the commitment that Mark and I share with the ADL, a commitment to help people and build bridges,” Downey said last night as she accepted the award.

The evening at the Hilton spotlighted the religiously themed work of Downey and Burnett. Together, the Hollywood power couple produced the 2013 cable miniseries “The Bible.”

This year, they released the film “Son of God.”

In a statement, the ADL praised the honorees, saying their productions “support the organization’s work … fighting hatred of all kinds.”

Burnett is the producer of some of reality television’s biggest shows, including “Survivor,” “The Voice,” “Celebrity Apprentice” and “Shark Tank.”

Downey is known for decade of work on the television series, “Touched By an Angel.” Her production company, LightWorkers Media, creates children’s programming.

The evening netted more than $1 million for the ADL’s Pacific Southwest chapter, which serves Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties.

ADL President Abe Foxman presented the award to Downey and Burnett.

In an interview, Foxman said the entertainment industry promotes ADL-cherished values.

“People look and watch and respond to entertainment in ways they don’t respond to anything else,” he said.

Indeed, the evening highlighted the coming together of two worlds. Foxman; ADL regional director Amanda Susskind and ADL regional board chair Seth Gerber joined Dreamworks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg; “Survivor” host Jeff Probst; model-actress-television personality Brooke Burke; Gary Barber, the chairman and CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; and Israeli film producer Avi Lerner last night.

Neither of the honorees are Jewish. Last night at the Hilton, Burnett said his upbringing taught him to embrace other faiths.

He said he’d never heard the notion that Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus — it was not until later in life that he discovered that people actually thought that way.

He credited the ADL with not just improving his work, but with making people him a better person.

Previous winners include Katzenberg and filmmaker Steven Spielberg.

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