Spanish King Felipe VI honored by European rabbis


King Felipe VI of Spain (r) shakes hands with CER President Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt

The Conference of European Rabbis (CER) on Tuesday bestowed its Lord Jakobovits Prize upon Spain’s monarch, who said in his acceptance speech that it was his country’s “duty in the name of justice” to do everything that Jewish life returns to Spain.

At a ceremony at the Royal Palace El Pardo near Madrid, the king said the prize was in fact a recognition for the people of Spain and the country’s institutions. Spain was an “open and tolerant” country marked by its “respect for diversity”.

Felipe VI thanked Sephardic Jews for their continued love and loyalty to Spain. He also highlighted the fact that many towns and municipalities in Spain were now rediscovering their Jewish heritage.

The CER’s award to Felipe VI with its prize was also due to Spain’s recent decision to grant citizenship to the descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled from Spain by the Catholic Inquisition after 1492. So far, around 4,500 applications have been approved.

CER President Pinchas 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.”

The CER’s annual Lord Jakobovits Prize was previously given to former Polish Prime Minister and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.