European rabbinic body giving top honors to Merkel

BERLIN (JTA) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive a top award from Europe’s mainstream Orthodox rabbinic body.

The Conference of European Rabbis announced Monday that Merkel will be awarded the 2013 Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry for her dedication to the German Jewish community and "outspoken denunciation of anti-Semitism throughout Europe."

The award will be presented in May at the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels; for security reasons the exact date has not been released.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, or CER, and a chief rabbi of Moscow, called Merkel "a worthy recipient, in recognition of her continuing efforts of intercommunal harmony across Europe, her friendship towards the Jewish community and outstanding contributions to the promotion of tolerance and understanding."

In its statement Monday, the CER thanked Merkel in particular for standing up for the rights of Jews and Muslims to practice ritual circumcision on boys. Last December, after months of debate following attempts to ban the practice, Germany’s Bundestag passed a law that permits such circumcisions, with minor restrictions that were acceptable to Jewish leaders. Merkel had forcefully stated her support for such a law and reassured both minority communities that she would stand up for them.

"The speed with which Chancellor Merkel responded to this most urgent matter, first pledging and then delivering an agreeable solution which protected the religious practices of both the Jewish and Muslim communities in Germany, was received with relief and gratitude by faith groups in Germany, Europe and the world," the CER said in its statement announcing the award.

The award, which was initiated last year, is named for the former CER president and chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth in honor of his religious and humanistic commitment.

Last year’s winner was former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, who served as president of the European Parliament from 2009 to 2012.
 

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