Spielberg and Streisand at ceremony
Spielberg and Streisand at ceremonyReuters

US President Barack Obama awarded on Tuesday the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 "extraordinary" recipients, including several notable American-Jewish artists. 

Among those Jews awarded the United States' highest civilian honor were actress-singer Barbra Streisand, film director Steven Spielberg, violinist Itzhak Perlman and composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim. 

Praising Streisand as a "global sensation," Obama, using a Yiddish expression, joked he was getting all "verklempt" just thinking about the vocalist's accomplishments.

"She has sold more albums in America than any woman in history. She has collected just about every honor and award that there is. I couldn't believe she hadn't gotten this one," he quipped. 

Moving on to Perlman, Obama lauded the violinist for his perseverance in overcoming polio to become a musical virtuoso. 

"What truly sets him apart, and what makes him perhaps the most beloved violinist of our time is that he approaches music the way he approaches everything in life - with passion and with joy," Obama asserted. "He lays bare the soul of a piece, making us feel each note, and giving us a glimpse of something bigger than ourselves. And by doing so, he makes the world a little more beautiful."

Before awarding the medal to Spielberg, Obama declared, "Steven's films are marked most importantly by a faith in our common humanity."

"His stories have shaped America's story and his values have shaped our world."