AJC honored Romanian President Klaus Iohannis with its Light Unto the Nations Award, the global Jewish advocacy organization’s highest honor presented to world leaders.

“President Iohannis has tenaciously pursued the prophetic vision of a more just and harmonious world,” said Allan Reich, a member of AJC’s Executive Council, who presented the award during the AJC Global Forum’s World Leaders Plenary.

The inscription reads: “For your steadfast defense of democratic values, relentless pursuit of justice, and unwavering commitment to friendship with the United States and Israel.”

“I accept the Light Unto the Nations Award not for myself, but for my country and the Romanian people,” said President Iohannis. “This very special award makes me assume an additional commitment to put all of my strength, as President of Romania, into pursuing justice, democracy, and the rule of law for my country, for the region, and globally.”

AJC has long recognized the key role played by Romania in NATO, the European Union, and the defense of freedom and maintenance of regional and global security. “President Iohannis’s commitment to a strong transatlantic alliance has been a shining beacon of hope,” said Reich.

President Iohannis, reiterating that allegiance, said, “I can assure you that we will continue to be one of the strongest transatlantic pillars inside the EU.”

Until March 2017, Romania held the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), composed of 31 nations. AJC praised the country’s stewardship of IHRA for “seeking to blaze new trails in strategies for combating antisemitism and promoting Holocaust education and research." In May 2016, the IHRA adopted the working definition of antisemitism at a meeting in Bucharest.

President Iohannis told the AJC Global Forum that “the positive example of Romania can be followed by other Central and East European countries, where the communist distortion of the Holocaust left societies too vulnerable to populist excesses for cheap political gain.”

Reich praised the Romanian president’s commitment to his country’s relations with Israel. Ioannis said Romania “places special importance on its relationship with the State of Israel…[A] relationship that is based on a history of 68 years of shared values and traditions.” He visited Jerusalem last year.

“Romania shares an unshakable bond with Israel, as the only country in my region with uninterrupted diplomatic relations since 1948,” said President Iohannis. “It is my personal commitment to continue to expand and reinforce this special, strategic relationship with Israel.”

Previous recipients of AJC’s Light Unto the Nations Award are: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, U.S. President Bill Clinton, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

AJC, founded in 1906 and with headquarters in New York, maintains 22 regional offices across the United States; 10 overseas posts; and 34 international association agreements with Jewish communities, including the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania.

The AJC Global Forum, taking place June 4-6 in Washington, D.C., is the advocacy organization’s signature annual event, bringing together more than 2,500 participants from across the United States and 70 countries around the world.

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