Praised for services to the Jewish people
The jury praised the Chancellor’s "unshakeable solidarity" in spite of increasing anti-Semitism in Germany and Europe. This solidarity is helping reinforce the trust of the Jewish community, said the Abraham Geiger College, explaining its decision to award the Chancellor the Prize.
The German Basic Law lays the foundation for peaceful co-existence
"Today’s ceremony once again shows us what a great gift it is, that there is once again multifaceted and rich Jewish life in Germany," responded the Chancellor. The peaceful co-existence of religions is "a unique vote of confidence in the liberal and democratic fundaments of our country, as laid out in the German Basic Law or constitution," said Angela Merkel.
The Basic Law, she continued, is also the basis on which we must master the challenges currently posed by the refugee crisis. Article 1 of the Basic Law states, "Human dignity shall be inviolable." This stands at the heart of decisions made by the German government and means specifically "that everyone coming to us is entitled to be treated with dignity," said Angela Merkel.
Time and patience needed to integrate refugees, says Chancellor
The Chancellor thanked the Jewish community for its support in taking in and integrating refugees. "I know that you in particular are well aware of the scale of the challenge, because you have taken in and integrated so many immigrants from the former Soviet Union over the last 25 years."
At the same time Angela Merkel appealed to her audience not to be afraid of changes. "Yes, our country will change. People need change, if we want to develop and not merely stand still." Integration will not happen overnight. "For integration, those already living here must be open, and those coming to us must be willing to respect the way we live, and to respect our law and our culture," said Angela Merkel.
The Abraham Geiger College trains rabbis and cantors for Jewish communities, especially in Germany. It was founded in 1999, as the first seminary in Central Europe since the Holocaust.
The Abraham Geiger Prize is worth 10,000 euros. The Chancellor will donate this sum to the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk to finance its inter-religious projects.