Penn had no obligation to risk his life for Ostreicher. To my knowledge, he has no immediate connection to him. Penn has Jewish lineage on his father’s side, but that doesn’t necessarily qualify either. I’d like to think Penn had a simple and straightforward reason for taking on Ostreicher cause — another human being in need.
The other hero in this story is the Aleph Institute, based in my childhood home of Miami, Florida, and run by my friend Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipsker. Aleph does a great deal to assist Jewish prisoners in the United States and abroad. Ostreicher personally thanked the Institute for helping to gain his release by contacting Penn who then traveled to Bolivia and made a direct appeal to President Evo Morales.
There is much other good that Penn has done, none more so than moving to Haiti after the devastation of the January, 2010 earthquake, which I personally witnessed shortly after the cataclysm. Penn started a relief organization which employs 350 people and which is credited with assisting nearly 60,000 displaced persons.
Every year my organization, This World: The Values Network, of which I serve as Founder and Executive Director and which seeks to disseminate universal Jewish values, hosts an international awards gala for those championing Jewish values. Past recipients include Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, America’s Doctor Mehmet Oz, and mega-philanthropists Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.
This coming 18 May, corresponding to the Jewish holiday of Lag B’Omer, at Cipriani in New York City, we will be honoring, in the 25th year since the Lubavitcher Rebbe sent me and my wife to Oxford, England, to serve as his personal emissaries and establish the Oxford University L’Chaim Society, our student presidents and graduates who have distinguished themselves in public service, most notably Senator Cory Booker, L’Chaim President in 1994, and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, L’Chaim President in 1996. We will also be honoring global anti-genocide campaigner and former Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council, John Prendergast.
With Sean Penn’s heroic actions on the part of a Jewish prisoner unjustly held, and in celebrating his resolve and determination to save a life that so many had given up on, Penn is deserving of such an honor and, should he accept, we would be honored to add him to the list.