Israeli President Shimon Peres received the first B'nai B'rith Europe Lifetime Award of Merit at a special ceremony at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem. B'nai B'rith Europe President Ralph Hofmann travelled from Frankfurt, Germany to make the presentation.
B'nai B'rith Europe Awards of Merit have been presented in the past to Richard V. Weizacker, former president of the Federal Republic of Germany (1991); French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy (1994); Helmut Kohl, former chancellor of Germany (1996); and Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany (2008). This year's B'nai B'rith Europe Award of Merit will be bestowed upon Mathias Doepfner, chairman of Axel Springer SE during a ceremony in Frankfurt/Main Germany on June 10.
- manifestly contributed to the resilience and unity of the Jewish people wherever they may be;
- supported by deed and by spirit the State of Israel as the eternal homeland of the Jewish people;
- fought against and spoken out against all manifestations of anti-Semitism and prejudice;
- represented the highest calling of Jewish values, ethics, nationhood and culture;
- vigilantly promoted freedom, democracy and peace amongst all people and constantly presented a message of hope;
- consistently displayed a deep concern and interest for the Jewish people and for future generations residing in the Diaspora;
- served as a role model and a voice for the Jewish people worldwide while exhibiting outstanding personal character, courage and foresight.
Peres received a gold medal and a certificate that read, in part, "You are the face of Israel and of the Jewish people and you bring together the highest Jewish values of ethics, morality, tolerance, culture and the national unity of the Jewish people. The B’nai B'rith fraternity is also committed to these principles."
”In my view every Jew deserves a medal of merit because to be a Jew is to be committed to the spirit of humanity,” Peres responded. “It is not simple and it never was simple to be a Jew. For me being a Jew means keeping the moral foundations of the Ten Commandments, continuous learning and pursuing peace. A Jew today is a person who ensures that his grandchildren are Jewish. That is what B'nai B'rith does, and it does it very well."
B’nai B’rith Europe is represented in 29 countries throughout Europe, with more than 5,000 members. With an office based in Brussels it is represented at the European Parliament, the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the United Nations in Geneva and UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris.
Also participating in the award ceremony were Simone Hofmann (Germany); Erika van Gelder (Holland), B'nai B'rith Europe senior vice president; Jolle Perelberg (France), former B’nai B’rith International senior vice president; Michael Nathan, president, B'nai B'rith Israel; Robert Levy, B'nai B'rith Europe Committee for Central and Eastern Europe (France/Israel); and Alan Schneider, B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem director.