His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain received the Lord Jakobovits Prize of European Jewry from Conference of European Rabbis President Moscow Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt at the El Pardo Palace in Madrid on Tuesday. During the ceremony, Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt called for religious leaders to take responsibility for their communities amid growing extremism in Europe.
The king received the award in tribute to his steadfast support of the Jewish community in Spain and in honor of his welcome and endorsement of the unique legislation to allow those Jews who can prove their Spanish heritage to return to Spain. The unprecedented move was the climax of years of dialogue between the palace and the Jewish community. In particular the CER recognised the “immense contribution that the king has made in his willingness to embrace the many religious faiths present throughout the continent.”
Previous awardees of the prize include French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and EU Commission President Jerzy Buzek.
His Majesty King Felipe VI said, “Europe needs the invaluable contribution of its Jewish communities, because we need to be honest and respectful to both our common Judeo-Christian values and origins, and also with the more broader or universal sense of true human values we are trying to extend and defend worldwide amidst all the horrors and hatred that still persist in so many places on Earth.”
During his address Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt said, “As religious leaders, we must take every opportunity to stress how it is our responsibility to combat extremism in any form. We set the tone for our communities and we can help leaders around the world to combat this evil.
“However, in an era where anti-Semitism is on the rise throughout Europe, Spain has taken extraordinary measures to make its Jews feel welcome. Not only did the minister of justice acknowledge the expulsion of what he has called an ‘historic mistake,’ he ensured that action was taken to rectify it.”
Isaac Quereb, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said, “It is honor and privilege, and a wise decision as well, that the Conference of European Rabbis has awarded this prize to His Majesty the King, and it is our pleasure to welcome the Conference of European Rabbis to Spain. Our community is blessed to have the warmest of relationships with King Felipe VI and this award is a credit for his involvement with the Spanish Jews and the Sephardim around the world. From the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain we are truly convinced that His Majesty may be a key figure to lead a time of dialogue and cooperation between Jews, Israel and the Arab World”
The Lord Jakobovits Prize of European Jewry was established by the president of the CER in 2011 to be awarded to personalities who have shown support to European Jewry, defended their religious rights and combated anti-Semitism.