German Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive a World Jewish Congress (WJC) Theodor Herzl Prize honouring her role in fighting anti-Semitism.
Merkel, who will receive the prize on Sunday in Munich, became chancellor in 2005 and said she will step down after elections in 2021.
The annual prize recognizes individuals who represent Herzl’s commitment to building a safer, more tolerant world for the Jewish people.
Knobloch, in a statement, noted that the honour comes a few weeks after a violent neo-Nazi attack on the synagogue in the Germany city of Halle, which took two lives. It also comes near the anniversary of the shooting attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building in Pittsburgh, leaving 11 worshippers dead.
“This prize is a statement against anti-Semitism,” said head of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, who serves as WJC representative of the Jewish World Congress for Holocaust Remembrance.
Also receiving a Theodor Herzl Prize this year will be former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who will be honoured next month in New York City.
Some critics in Germany and abroad have decried awarding the prize to Merkel, suggesting that while she sincerely condemns anti-Semitism, her government is soft on Iran and on Hezbollah. In addition, they claim, the arrival of more than one million Muslim refugees since 2015 has made Germany a more dangerous place for Jews.
Past prize winners include the Rothschild family, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, former Israeli President Shimon Peres, Elie and Marion Wiesel; former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, and posthumously Ronald Reagan and Axel Springer.