WJC’s Ronald Lauder awarded with Germany’s highest medal of honor

Marcy Oster

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany awarded World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder with its highest medal of honor for his support of Jewish life in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

German Ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig presented Lauder with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 13, the WJC announced. Among those present at the ceremony was U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.


Lauder has been active in supporting Jewish education across Central and Eastern Europe for more than 20 years. In Berlin, this includes a yeshiva and rabbinical seminary, aimed at producing educators for a country whose official Jewish population rose more than four-fold with the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union.

“We are grateful to see this new Jewish life thriving within our midst and we embrace it,” Wittig said at the ceremony.  “Ron, you helped to restore part of our own history! We cannot thank you enough for that!”

Lauder, who in his own remarks thanked Germany for its ongoing support of Israel, also has been a voice of conscience: As head of the WJC, he has strongly criticized recent attempts to erode the right to ritual circumcision for Jews and Muslims in Germany, and he has lambasted German art institutions for failing to identify and return works that Nazis confiscated from Jewish collectors.

Germany’s official Jewish population today stands at about 105,000. It is estimated that at least another 150,000 citizens of Jewish background are not affiliated with the Jewish community.