Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), was awarded the Chevalier Dans L’Ordre National de la Legion d’honneur by the President of France on Tuesday.
The award is the highest level of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor, established by Napoleon Bonaparte. Past recipients of the award include the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Dr. Kantor received the award for working towards the rights of minorities, promoting interfaith relations, leading the fight against racism and anti-Semitism and pushing for a more tolerant Europe in his roles at the European Jewish Congress, the democratically-elected umbrella organization representing European Jewry.
“I am humbled by this honor,” Kantor said after receiving the award. “I see this award as acknowledgment of my work against intolerance and discrimination in Europe.”
He added, “For many years I have tried to press European leaders to establish new and tougher laws against racism and anti-Semitism and this award is recognition of my efforts to implement a new thinking towards prejudice on the European continent through the concept of secured tolerance.”
Kantor also spoke about the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe, especially on the day marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Today, unfortunately, I remain haunted by the permanent threat represented by the evil of anti-Semitism,” Kantor said. “Contrary to what many people thought in 1945, anti-Semitism did not disappear after Auschwitz. It is still a growing concern, and therefore I see it as a duty and a personal responsibility to continue fighting this phenomenon.”
In his speech to the European Parliament on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dr. Kantor warned against regimes such as the Iranian one that seek to destroy Israel, 70 years after the Holocaust.
“Today we look to the East, to Iran, and we face again a new regime of evil that abuses its own citizens, that threatens to annihilate a democratic state, the only state of the Jewish people, and that threatens world peace and the very destruction of western civilization,” he said. “We dare not delude ourselves, imagining that this kingdom of evil is somehow far away, of another planet, or will just fade away; we cannot afford to ever again lose our own planet.”