Photo Credit: FLASH90
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt writing part of a new Torah scroll in the Western Wall tunnels, May 21, 2014.

The board of directors of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen, the oldest and best-known prize awarded for work done in the service of European unification, last Friday announced that the 2024 prize goes to the President of the European Rabbinical Conference, Pinchas Goldschmidt, and the Jewish communities in Europe.

The prize is named for Charlemagne (748-814), the illiterate Frankish ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, who was revered by his contemporaries as the “Father of Europe.” Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Charlemagne instituted political and societal changes that had a lasting impact on Europe in the Middle Ages.


Early in Charlemagne’s rule he invited Jews to monopolize money lending and invited Italian Jews to immigrate to his kingdom as royal clients independent of the feudal landowners and form trading communities in Provence and the Rhineland. Jewish trade helped Charlemagne’s kingdom thrive even though its economy was otherwise almost exclusively based on agriculture. His personal physician was a Jewish man named Ferragut, and a Jew named Isaac was his representative to Harun al-Rashid, the Muslim Caliph of Baghdad.

Charlemagne is crowned Emperor in Rome by Pope Leo III. / Friedrich Kaulbach (1822–1903)

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, 61, is a Swiss-born scholar, and Jewish community leader. He was the Chief Rabbi of Moscow from 1993 until 2022, serving at the Moscow Choral Synagogue. He also founded and headed the Moscow Rabbinical Court of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) since 1989. Starting in 2011, Rabbi Goldschmidt served as president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), which unites more than 700 communal rabbis from Dublin, Ireland to Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East.

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Rabbi Goldschmidt gained international notoriety for his recommendation that all Jews living in Russia leave the country for their safety. Goldschmidt soon attracted personal threats of violence by antisemitic extremists. In March 2022, Rabbi Goldschmidt and his wife left Russia for Hungary after they refused to publicly support the invasion.

The Citation by the Board of Directors of the Society for the Conferring of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen to the President of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, and the Jewish people in Europe, is given “In recognition of his outstanding efforts to promote peace, the right of all peoples to self-determination, European values, tolerance, pluralism, and understanding, and in acknowledgment of his significant commitment to interreligious and intercultural dialogue.”

The Charlemagne Prize logo. /

The statement continued:

“With this accolade, the Charlemagne Prize Board of Directors wishes to broadcast the message that Jewish life is a natural part of Europe and that there is no place for antisemitism in Europe. Jewish life is an essential part of Europe’s past, its present, and its future.

“Any attack on a Jew is an attack on everything that Europe prides itself in. The way we treat Jews and other minorities is like a litmus test for the state of health of our open European society.” This statement, by the former Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, makes an important point: every form of antisemitism – every attack, every denigration, and, above all, every act of violence – is an attack on us all. An attack on our liberal, democratic, and pluralistic order, on our coexistence in a Europe that strives to attain its unity precisely by embracing, respecting, and, as a matter of course, practicing its diversity. A Europe that – wherever minorities are under threat – must visibly demonstrate its attitude, its responsibility
and its solidarity.

“We live in a pluralistic, and increasingly secularized, society. But our united Europe is not value-neutral. It is only where the dignity and the diversity of individuals are respected that peaceful coexistence – one characterized by tolerance, understanding, and humanity – is possible.”


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