France's President François Hollande on Wednesday decorated World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder with the National Order of the Legion of Honor, calling him “a man of peace, of culture and of commitment.”
Hollande said in his speech, “Since 2007, you have served as World Jewish Congress president, heading an organization that represents Jewish communities in 100 countries.
"You travel the world, and you convey the message of tolerance and peace. You have the ear of Jewish communities who are in need of support, leadership and values in a world of menaces, a world where old hatreds are resurfacing that we thought had disappeared long ago."
Hollande paid homage to Lauder, “the businessman who has developed with talent an enterprise that is today a world leader" (Estée Lauder), as well as to the art collector Lauder who the president said owned "the most beautiful modern art collection ever assembled by an individual."
Hollande concluded his speech by saying that "with you, France honors a man of peace, of culture and of commitment. The cause you serve is to preserve the memory in order to build the future."
The ceremony was attended by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls and a number of other French government officials.
Lauder was at the Elysée Palace in Paris as head of a delegation of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, of which he is a past president. He also held talks with Hollande and raised issues of concern to Jewish communities, notably the Iranian threat.
The French president told Lauder that Iran
was not the problem of Israel
alone but of the whole world.
The WJC head also called on France to support an initiative to put Hezbollah
on the European Union's list of terrorist organizations, following the evidence presented by Bulgaria
on Tuesday that the Lebanese Shiite movement was involved in the Burgas bombing of Israeli tourists in July 2012.
Hollande said in response that France would study the evidence assembled by the Bulgarian investigators before making any decision.