Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was awarded the Buber-Rosenzweig Medal on Tuesday for her work combating anti-Semitism in politics, society and culture.
Merkel is stepping down in September after 16 years leading Germany.
“It is our lasting task to strengthen and protect Jewish life in Germany,” said Merkel during a speech at the event. “I consider the award of the Buber-Rosenzweig medal as an honor, but above all in these times also as an incentive for our ongoing commitment to the values of our democracy, to tolerance and the dignity of the individual.”
During her speech, Merkel called on German society to use all available tools to fight against anti-Semitism, racist and discrimination.
She cited the attack the Halle, Germany synagogue attack on Yom Kippur in 2019 along with anti-Semitic protests outside of synagogues and assaults on Jews wearing kippahs as social problems that are not acceptable.
At the event, Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, noted Merkel’s close relationship of “solidarity” with Israel, her commitment to combating anti-Semitism and her work to ensuring religious freedom. He said that those aspects of her tenure transcended the political.
“You also hold on to these convictions when it is not popular, when you are heavily criticized for it or when there are setbacks. In times when political populism is unfortunately often rewarded with many votes, this steadfastness is appreciated more than ever,” Schuster said.
The Buber-Rosenzweig Medal is given to an individual who makes a strong contribution to fostering Jewish-Christian dialogue. It is named after Austrian-Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber and German-Jewish theologian.
Past recipients have included several German political leaders, architect Daniel Libeskind and conductor Daniel Barenboim.
The ceremony was hosted by the German Coordinating Council of Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation (DKR), which represents 44 organizations.
Merkel was scheduled to make a final visit to Israel as chancellor. However, on August 26, the German government announced that the German leader had cancelled her planned visit due to the situation in Afghanistan.