Central Council of Jews in Germany President Josef Schuster
Central Council of Jews in Germany President Josef SchusterReuters

Germany’s main Jewish organization gave its Leo Baeck Prize to journalist and publisher Mathias Döpfner for his commitment to Israel and German Jewry.

At a time when media and popular sentiment increasingly blame Israel for defending itself, Döpfner steadfastly defends truth, said Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“You don’t remain silent,” Schuster told Döpfner at a gala dinner May 16 in Berlin. “You don’t try to explain away this hatred for Israel and for us Jews. Or to justify it.”

Döpfner, 56, who has called himself a non-Jewish Zionist, made the “fight against anti-Semitism his personal concern,” Schuster added.

Speaking extemporaneously, Döpfner said that his first visit to Israel, in 1981, shaped his later career. He was also influenced by his friendships with several Holocaust survivors.

Döpfner said he’d always felt it was not enough to condemn anti-Semitism; one had to stand up against it.

“Why is this worth a prize? It should be a matter of course,” he said, in accepting the award.

The 10,000 euro prize was established in 1957, and is named for Rabbi Leo Baeck, a leader in Germany’s liberal movement who died the previous year.