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Antonio Tajani, EP President and Frans Timmermans, EC Vice-President
First VP of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, stands by continents community while being awarded the Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry.
A European leader has told the continent’s Jewish community “I will always be there for you” as he was awarded the Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry.
Speaking at the Great Synagogue in Brussels, First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said: “I will always be there for you, I will always defend your rights and I will always stand by you.”
Together with Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, Timmermans was honoured with one of European Jewry’s highest accolades, named after former Chief Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits.
Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, presented the award to Timmermans, while Rabbi Albert Guigui, Chief Rabbi of Brussels, presented a second award to Tajani.
In an emotional address, delivered without notes, Timmermans said: “The souls of so many cities were torn out during the Shoah but the attitude of the Jewish community is the ultimate triumph over Hitler and his henchman. This is our common quest. This is the Europe we want to be a part of.”
Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt thanked Timmermans and Tajani for their support for religious freedom in Europe but warned against “the sinister undercurrent [of hate] in society that many of us hoped was consigned to the past”.
His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain
King Felipe VI recognized for his steadfast support for the Jewish community in Spain. His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain received the Lord Jakobovits Prize of European Jewry from Conference of European Rabbis President, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt at the El Pardo Palace in Madrid.
During the ceremony, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt called for religious leaders to take responsibility for their communities amid growing extremism in Europe. The king received the award in tribute to his steadfast support of the Jewish community in Spain and in honour of his welcome and endorsement of the unique legislation to allow those Jews who can prove their Spanish heritage to return to Spain. The unprecedented move was the climax of years of dialogue between the palace and the Jewish community.
In particular the CER recognised the “immense contribution that the king has made in his willingness to embrace the many religious faiths present throughout the continent.”
His Majesty King Felipe VI said, “Europe needs the invaluable contribution of its Jewish communities, because we need to be honest and respectful to both our common Judeo-Christian values and origins, and also with the more broader or universal sense of true human values we are trying to extend and defend worldwide amidst all the horrors and hatred that still persist in so many places on Earth.” During his address Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt said, “As religious leaders, we must take every opportunity to stress how it is our responsibility to combat extremism in any form. We set the tone for our communities and we can help leaders around the world to combat this evil.
“However, in an era where anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe, Spain has taken extraordinary measures to make its Jews feel welcome. Not only did the minister of justice acknowledge the expulsion of what he has called an ‘historic mistake,’ he ensured that action was taken to rectify it.”
Isaac Quereb, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said, “It is honour and privilege, and a wise decision as well, that the Conference of European Rabbis has awarded this prize to His Majesty the King, and it is our pleasure to welcome the Conference of European Rabbis to Spain.
Our community is blessed to have the warmest of relationships with King Felipe VI and this award is a credit for his involvement with the Spanish Jews and the Sephardim around the world. From the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain we are truly convinced that His Majesty may be a key figure to lead a time of dialogue and cooperation between Jews, Israel and the Arab World”
Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was honoured by a gathering of European rabbis for his “exemplary determination in the fight against anti-Semitism,” less than a month after he announced the beginning of a massive national effort to combat his country’s rising levels of anti- Jewish incidents.
Following a meeting of the CER standing committee, a private ceremony was attended by CER President Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Standing Committee and Members of the Board of Patrons. The presentation itself was made by Chairman of the Board of Patron Mr Boris Mintz together with Vice Chair Mrs. Joelle Aflalo.
During the ceremony, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt said: “We made the decision to award Prime Minister Valls the Lord Jakobovits prize after the decisive action Prime Minister Valls took to protect the people the Jews of France from the mobs who were about to make a pogrom against our people and our synagogues.”
“There are some voices asking if there is a future for the Jewish people in Europe? I say the answer this question can only be answered by European governments themselves. And if that answer is to be a positive answer then they must follow the example of Prime Minister Valls.”
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was honoured Wednesday by the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) for her support to the German Jewish community and her denunciation of anti-Semitism throughout Europe.
At a ceremony in Brussels following an EU summit, Merkel was awarded the Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry at the Great Synagogue of Europe.
“Chancellor Merkel is a worthy recipient in recognition of her continuing efforts of inter-communal harmony across Europe, her friendship towards the Jewish community and outstanding contributions to the promotion of tolerance and understanding,” the CER’s president, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, said in a statement.
Merkel referred in her acceptance speech to the murder of six million Jews instigated by Germany, calling the Holocaust a “break with civilization.” She stressed the right to religious freedom, referring to anti-Semitic comments that had arisen during a fierce recent debate in Germany over the Jewish and Muslim practices of circumcision.
“The fight against anti-Semitism is a paramount duty of a free democratic state,” Merkel said, adding that it was important to invest in education to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. The chancellor also spoke about Germany’s friendship with Israel, and said a two-state solution remains an attainable goal in the Middle East, despite all setbacks.
Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt praised Merkel for her “principled leadership” and her stance during the debate on circumcision. He said it had not been an easy decision to award the prize to a German chancellor, but said it was the “right decision.”
Former Polish European Parliament President, Jerzy Buzek
Former Polish European Parliament President Prof. Jerzy Buzek was awarded the first “Lord Jakobovits Prize of European Jewry” by the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), during a ceremony held at Brussels’s great synagogue.
“He has been a friend of Jewish communities for years, as a Polish Prime Minister and European Parliament’s president he has been constantly building bridges of understanding, decisively fought against anti-Semitism and acted for commemorating victims of Shoah” – said Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the President of the CER, justifying the award for Jerzy Buzek.
At the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels, European Jews gathered for a prize award and remembrance of Toulouse victims on March 27, 2012. The ceremony at the Brussels synagogue, which was consecrated by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso as The Great Synagogue of Europe in 2008, included a special prayer for the victims of the Toulouse shootings. During the ceremony, children from local Jewish schools read out a psalm in memory of the Toulouse victims. To emphasise the message of education for tolerance and mutual respect, classes from the European School in Brussels also were present.
CER President Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said, “This public affirmation of our continued commitment to the values of tolerance and democracy which form the basis of the European Union needs to be reasserted particularly at this time when we are mourning the passing of our children as the result of a hate crime on the European continent,” Goldschmidt added. “Coming just one week before Pesach, the ultimate Jewish festival of liberation and freedom, when we transfer the message to our children of the continued victory of the forces of light over those of darkness, it is particularly poignant that we gather here to reassert our commitment to those values.”
The Conference of European Rabbis (CER) awarded the first “Prix du Judaism European – Prix Lord Jakobovits” to the former prime minister of Poland and former president of the European Parliament, Prof. Jerzy Buzek MEP, for his efforts in support of Polish and European Jewry. The award ceremony was addressed by the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz MEP. A number of European and Belgian political leaders, diplomats, as well as chief rabbis and other representatives of European Jewish communities were present, including the chief rabbi of Toulouse, Avraham Weill.