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Israeli aid group wins German integration prize

October 30, 2018

The winning project provides psychological support to refugees and promotes women's empowerment. It also supports understanding between Jews and Muslims.

Merkel awards integration prize
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/K.Nietfeld

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday awarded the national integration prize to a project aiding refugees run by two Jewish and Israeli organizations.

The project "Building Bridges Encountering diversity" (Brückenbau - Vielfalt begegnen) won the annual prize for imparting the values of tolerance, non-discrimination, equal rights and acceptance of different religions in its work with refugees.

Read more: Germans upbeat about immigration, study finds

The project is run by the Central Welfare Office of the Jews in Germany and the Israeli relief organization IsraAID at 10 migrant reception centers in Berlin and Frankfurt. It receives support from the German government.

The Building Bridges project provides psychological and social support to refugees fleeing conflict zones. It also focuses on women's rights and empowerment.

Workers in the project are Arabic speaking Israelis, Jewish Israelis as well as Germans, who are also supported by volunteers. 

"The mission of integration and imparting values is definitely not always easy. The tone has even become more testy," Merkel said in Berlin.  But she added: "Germany would be much less rich without its citizens who have an immigration background."

She called the project "a really groundbreaking initiative."

The Central Council for Jews in Germany nominated the project, which was then selected by a jury.

Council President Josef Schuster said the project helps to create bridges between religions as well as between refugees and other members of society. 

"The prize encourages the continuation of exchanges between Muslims and Jews," he said.

The German government decided in 2016 to award an integration prize of €10,000 ($11,400). Last year, the city of Altena in the western state of Saarland won the prize.

cw/aw (dpa, epd, KNA)

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