July 31, 2022 — Sofia, Bulgaria
Bulgaria honored American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris today with the Honorary Medal of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, one of the country’s highest awards.
Bulgarian President Rumen Radev bestowed the award on Harris for “his exceptional contribution to the advancement of the transatlantic partnership, the strengthening of the relations between Bulgaria and the United States, and in recognition of his role in the fight against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.”
“Ever since I learned about Bulgaria’s protection of its 50,000-member Jewish community during the Second World War, I’ve wanted to offer our friendship and support. After the end of Communism in 1989, that opportunity arose, and I have felt close to this country ever since, including many visits, the opening of an AJC office here, and support for both EU and NATO membership. In that spirit, Mr. President, I accept this meaningful award with immense gratitude,” Harris said.
It is the second time that Bulgaria has honored Harris during his 32 years at the helm of AJC, the leading global Jewish advocacy organization. In 2010, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov presented Harris with the Madara Rider State Honor for his "outstanding contribution to bilateral relations between Bulgaria and the United States.”
Led by Harris, who saw unprecedented opportunities due to the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, AJC has been deeply involved with Bulgaria and other countries in the former Soviet bloc.
AJC leaders have frequently visited Sofia, meeting with top Bulgarian officials and representatives of the country’s small but vibrant Jewish community, and acknowledging Bulgaria’s successful rescue of most of its Jews during World War II, despite being an ally of Nazi Germany. Several Bulgarian leaders have addressed AJC Global Forums in Washington and Jerusalem.
Longtime Bulgarian Jewish leader Viktor Melamed was appointed AJC representative in Sofia in 2018. He and Dr. Alexander Oscar, President of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria Shalom, an AJC international partner, we’re among those in attendance at the award ceremony.
Described by the late Israeli President Shimon Peres as the “foreign minister of the Jewish people,” Harris has been decorated by foreign governments more than any other Jewish organizational leader in American history.
In addition to Bulgaria, he has also been honored, in some cases multiple times, by the governments of Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Spain, and Ukraine for his international efforts in defense of human rights, advancement of the transatlantic partnership, and dedication to the Jewish people.