BERLIN (JTA) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel was honored by the World Jewish Congress for her role in fighting anti-Semitism.
The annual Theodor Herzl Prize recognizes individuals who represent Herzl’s commitment to building a safer, more tolerant world for the Jewish people.
“This prize is a statement against anti-Semitism,” said the head of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, who serves as the WJC representative of the Jewish World Congress for Holocaust Remembrance.
Knobloch in a statement noted that the honor comes a few weeks after a violent neo-Nazi attack on the synagogue in the Germany city
of Halle, which took two lives.
Merkel was honored Sunday in Munich. She became chancellor in 2005 and said she will step down after elections in 2021.
WJC President Ronald Lauder called Merkel “the guardian of democracy, the guardian of civilization and the guardian of Europe… you have always supported the Jewish community in this country. You have always stood by Israel … you are a German leader who has become a one-person dam. A dam against instability. A dam against irrationality. A dam against extremism. A dam against hate. A dam against racism. A dam against antisemitism.”
Also receiving a Theodor Herzl Prize this year will be Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who will be honored next month in New York City.
Some critics in Germany and abroad have decried awarding the prize to Merkel, suggesting that while she condemns anti-Semitism, her government is soft on Iran and Hezbollah. In addition, they claim, the arrival of more than 1 million Muslim refugees since 2015 has made Germany a more dangerous place for Jews.
Past prize winners include the President Ronald Reagan, posthumously, former U.S. Secretaries of State Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, the late Israeli President Shimon Peres, and Elie and Marion Wiesel.