Prof. Irwin Cotler Honors Manfred Gerstenfeld at CIJR Montreal 2019 Gala


…Let me at this point say that after watching the videos of Hillel Neuer, one of the best of my and former students, Rabbi Cooper, Alvin Rosenfeld, I think they already gave you excellent introductions to Manfred Gerstenfeld, so I hope you’ll indulge me. I may be able to mention I hope some things about Manfred which will illustrate the incredible career of someone, who for me has been a long-standing friend and colleague, and for whom it is a real pleasure and privilege for me to be able to present him this evening.

He has been an intellectual policy and strategic pioneer in the struggle against antisemitism. The oldest, most enduring, most global, and most toxic of hatreds and bringing us together here at a time of a resurgence of this global antisemitism; a threat not only to Jews but to our common humanity, the canary in the mine shaft of global evil today and mandating, indeed commanding, our individual and collective involvement in combating this historic enduring and contemporary evil. A brilliant public intellectual, policy and strategic analyst, Manfred is really a Renaissance Jew who brings an incredible repository of expertise and experience as a backdrop to his work in antisemitism. A Dutch Jew who was born in Austria as was mentioned, grew up in Amsterdam, made aliyah in 1968 from Paris to Israel, Manfred was, and this is not as well-known as it deserves to be, was already an international student leader in his 20’s. He was the president of the World Union of Jewish Students from 1963 to 1967. He was already then in his 20’s a Jewish communal leader. He was then serving on the European Board of the World Jewish Congress, a trustee of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish culture and a member of the Council of the World Union of Students and received the degrees — it is incredible when you think about his academic background — received degrees in chemistry economics and a PhD in environmental studies and becoming an expert in environmental protection before it was even fashionable to start thinking about climate change.

So this is something about the backdrop of the person who is here, but it doesn’t end there very quickly. For over 40 years after making aliyah, Manfred has been a leading international strategic consultant for governments and major corporations all over the world during which time he published leading papers. We know about his work in antisemitism which commends him in particular this evening, but he published leading papers in the fields of politics, economics, the environment, religion, history, as I said a real renaissance scholar, including groundbreaking articles on the relationship between Judaism and environmental protection. But it is since Manfred’s quote unquote retirement as it has been called in the year 2000 that Manfred has made his singular intellectual policy and strategic contribution to the defining understanding and combating of the old new antisemitism and its various global manifestations including his other 11 books alone and hundreds of groundbreaking articles while serving at the same time since 2000 as Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, as editor of the Jewish Political Studies Review, as publisher of the important publication Post-Holocaust and Antisemitism and where his incredible contributions have been duly recognized by being the recipient. And I was there in London in 2012 when he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism for his incredible work in this field and the recipient of the Simon Wiesenthal Center of its international leadership board as he is receiving this evening the International Lion of Judah Award from CIJR.

May I close by excerpting references from very distinguished academic, intellectual and political figures commenting on Manfred’s work in antisemitism. Elie Wiesel, zichrono l’vracha, of blessed memory, who wrote about Manfred Gerstenfeld’s work on the abuse of Holocaust memory that it was written with exemplary tenacity and courage. Of the former Prime Minister of Spain and the former Foreign Minister of Italy who singly and jointly wrote of Manfred’s Gerstenfeld’s book on the War of a Million Cuts: The Struggle Against Delegitimization of Israel and Jews in the Growth of the New Anti-Semitism as being a compelling book, an effective antidote to the poison of antisemitism and the double standards against Israel. And where finally, Anshel Pfeiffer writing not from any right-wing publication, but from the left-wing Haaretz newspaper in Israel, summing it all up and saying Manfred Gerstenfeld is without doubt the greatest authority on antisemitism today. I present you with great pleasure, Manfred Gerstenfeld.

-Irwin Cotler, December 2019, CIJR

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