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Israel is now facing a greater threat than at any time since its foundation, one of the European Jewish community's best-known figures warned on Thursday.
British publisher and ex-journalist Lord George Weidenfeld of Chelsea said the Jewish state urgently needed the support of the Diaspora, in a speech at the award ceremony for the annual Leo Baeck Prize in Berlin.
Addressing German Jews at a Berlin hotel, he said: "Israel is today more threatened than at any time since the establishment of the state in 1947.
"More than ever, Israel needs the friendship and empathy of those who stood by it in the past.
"This wish, in the great shadow of Leo Baeck, is very appropriate." Austrian-born Weidenfeld is one of Britain's most successful publishers and philanthropists, who also served as political adviser and chief of cabinet to Chaim Weizmann in 1949.
Faced with the rise of the Nazis, he emigrated from Austria to London, became a political commentator for the BBC and authored a weekly newspaper column. In 1948, he co-founded the publishing house Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
Also in his speech, Weidenfeld praised the growing re-emergence of the "first very frail and now more self-confident Jewish community in this country," which includes the opening of a new synagogue in Munich later this month.
He also paid tribute to fellow publisher, Professor Hubert Burda, who was presented at the ceremony with the Leo Baeck Prize. Burda was chosen for being a tireless campaigner of German-Jewish reconciliation.
"Burda never doubted the important role that Jewish thought, sentiments and knowledge played on German cultural history," a Central Council spokesman said.
The 65-year-old Burda, who the council called "a godfather of tolerance and reconciliation," is the publisher of several of Germany's top selling journals, including the weekly news magazine Focus, the glossy celebrity tabloid Bunte and the women's weekly Freundin.
The prize has been awarded every year by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, since 1956. It was named in honor of Rabbi Leo Baeck, the prominent German scholar who served as president of the council representing Jews in Germany during the Nazi era and who survived Theresienstadt.
The Central Council's prize includes a 10,000 euro stipend, which was presented to Burda during the ceremony.
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