Received B’nai B’rith Presidential Gold Medallion Award for Human Rights Work
B’nai B’rith mourns the loss of Vaclav Havel, who brought attention to injustice through his work as a writer, activist, dissident and eventually first president of post-communist Czechoslovakia.
In 1991, B’nai B’rith awarded Havel its highest award, the Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism, for his decades of work calling attention to injustice and inequality. The honor is awarded to a select few recipients who practice outstanding international leadership and service to their communities.
“Vaclav Havel lived his beliefs,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “Jailed numerous times for speaking against the injustice of Czechoslovakia’s communist regime, Havel showed the world that words and convictions can make a difference.”
Havel’s work with Charter 77, a human rights group that forcefully and at great risk spoke against the communist party’s violations of human rights, is especially noteworthy.
The 1989 “Velvet Revolution” that peacefully ended communist rule in Czechoslovakia cemented Havel’s place in history. Elected president of Czechoslovakia in December 1989, and later serving a decade as president of the newly created Czech Republic, Havel remained a tireless supporter and champion of human rights.
“Havel must always be remembered as a great friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “He spoke of the horrors of the Holocaust and vehemently denounced anti-Semitism. Vaclav Havel was one of the most important figures of the last century.”