The award celebrates Freeman's dedication to combating racism and promoting knowledge and education worldwide. The gala was held at the Toronto Center for the Arts and was attended by more than 700 guests.
The event raised $2 million for the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), Canada’s premier institute in Israel and a symbol of the scientific cooperation and friendship between both countries.
Through IMRIC, Israeli and Canadian scientists are working together to find solutions and better treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and heart- and brain-related disorders.
Funds raised will also establish a scholarship fund for international students participating in the Public Health and Community Medicine Program at the Hebrew University.
Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson presented the award to Morgan Freeman.
"In presenting this Award, the Hebrew University and its Canadian Friends association pay tribute to your long-standing commitment to humanitarian relief the world over, your affirmation of the dignity and autonomy of every human being, and your commitment to advancing education — values that we share in common," Prof. Ben-Sasson said.
"The Hebrew University, Israel’s first and leading institution of higher education, is a meeting place for peoples of all beliefs and backgrounds, and an institution whose goals to seek truth and serve humanity are pursued in a spirit of openness, pluralism and tolerance.
"In the words of Albert Einstein, one of the Hebrew University’s visionary founders: 'A university is a place where the universality of the human spirit manifests itself.'"
Universality of education
Among the guest present at the event were Dr. Amir Amedi, renowned IMRIC brain scientist, and Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations and Hebrew University alumna.
Elan Divon, executive director of CFHU Toronto, said following the event: “Last night was a tribute to an extraordinary actor and humanitarian, Morgan Freeman. But it was also a tribute to all the educators, teachers, and change makers of this world; people who get up every morning and believe they can make a difference.
"Yes we raised a significant amount of money towards scientific and medical research at the Hebrew University, but our impact goes well beyond that. By bringing together a Hollywood icon, a Kenyan ambassador, and an Israeli scientist, we were able to demonstrate the universality of education, and what we can achieve when we invest in human capital and young minds.”
A special question-and-answer session with Morgan Freeman was moderated by two-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Paul Saltzman and hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. Guests also enjoyed a tribute video featuring Shirley Douglas, actress and political activist; Marc and Craig Kielburger, co-founders of Free the Children; Piers Handling, director and CEO of TIFF; and Robert Lantos, founder of Serendipity Point Films.
The Jake Eberts Key of Knowledge Award is named in honor of the late film producer Jake Eberts, who in 2011 received the first-ever Key of Knowledge Award in recognition of his dissemination of knowledge through film and his significant philanthropic contributions.
Throughout his 35-year film career, Eberts helped create many Academy Award-winning films, including Chariots of Fire, Gandhi, Driving Miss Daisy and Dances with Wolves, and such notable documentaries as Prisoner of Paradise, Journey to Mecca and Oceans. His final project, "Jerusalem," is an Imax 3D production due for worldwide release later this year.