January 27, 2020

Deadline: September 15, 2019



In recent decades, many individuals and organizations in Germany have worked creatively and selflessly to preserve, raise awareness of, and breathe new life into the once-vibrant Jewish culture in their communities. Their work crosses many realms including historical restoration, research and genealogy, storytelling, education, art, and community building. Together, these efforts are making history and some of its most profound lessons accessible to current-day audiences.

The Obermayer Foundation recognizes the critical importance of these individuals and organizations. These individuals and organizations connect the stories of the past to the prejudice and racism in the world today, and they build relationships, foster reconciliation, and counter bias in local communities and beyond. Each year, the Obermayer Foundation recognizes a select group of Germans (typically non-Jews), who are engaged in this work through the Obermayer German Jewish History Awards.

In addition, to mark their 20th anniversary, the Obermayer Awards are expanding. The new Anniversary Awards will focus on those who, through innovative efforts, find ways to use the lessons of history to fight against current prejudice and racism. These individuals and organizations are changing attitudes that lead to intolerance, as well as fostering the kind of understanding among different cultures that prevents prejudice from taking root. For more information about the Anniversary Awards, read the complete description and criteria.

The Obermayer Awards are administered and supported by Widen the Circle, a division of the Obermayer Foundation established in 2019. It seeks to widen the circle of tolerance, reconciliation, and intercultural understanding, particularly in places where there is a history of extreme persecution of one group by another. It works to combat prejudice by fostering a shared understanding of the past that promotes healing, as well as opens a path to dialog and mutual trust moving forward.

The work of Obermayer German Jewish History awardees has included such things as: 

  • Restoration of synagogues, cemeteries, and other cultural sites
  • Researching and synthesizing first-person accounts, histories, and genealogies
  • Informal education and storytelling via public programs and exhibitions
  • Formal educational activities focused on schools and other education institutions
  • Development of websites, videos, publications, and other media
  • Musical/dramatic performance or artistic creation
  • Installation of Holocaust memorials and Stolpersteine
  • Forging connections with the descendants of former residents of a community or region

The awards program also may honor one or more individuals or organizations with distinguished service awards. These awards recognize those who have played critical roles in enabling this kind of work to take place or who have increased its impact in extraordinary ways.  

Award recipients hail from a wide variety of professions, from stone masons and letter carriers to artists and physicians, and have come from all regions of Germany. Profiles of previous years’ awardees, as well as information about past award ceremonies, are available at http://www.obermayer.us/award/. While the scope of work outlined in the profiles of previous recipients may be used as a guideline for determining eligibility, other forms of significant contributions are especially welcome.

The award program was initiated by Dr. Arthur S. Obermayer (1931-2016) in 2000.

Awards are administered by Widen the Circle, a division of the Obermayer Foundation, with co-sponsorship, support, and organization of the ceremony in Berlin is provided by the Berlin Parliament. The awards are also co-sponsored by the Leo Baeck Institutee (New York) and GerSIG, (the German Jewish Special Interest Group of JewishGen.org).


The awards are given to individuals and groups that have:

  • Made extraordinary contributions to preserving or breathing new life into Jewish history and culture, typcially over the course of years
  • Raised awareness of a once-vibrant Jewish history and culture in their communities
  • Either done the work largely on a volunteer basis or gone far beyond what would be expected from their paid, professional, or academic work.

The awards also seek to honor individuals and groups for one or more of the following:

  • Impact on younger generations
  • Enduring value
  • Potential for future impact beyond the nominee’s local community or region
  • Development of mutual understanding and respect among people based on shared history
  • Extent of relationships built between people from local communities and Jewish descendants from those communities


Nominations must be received by September 15, 2019.

Nominations are welcome from all over the world, including from within Germany. Applications with nominators who have been deeply and personally impacted by the nominees are encouraged. Supporting nominators may provide further valuable information about the nominee.

  • Lead Nominator(s): For each nominee, the jury should receive a full application completed by a lead nominator or a group of lead nominators. See below for an application summary
  • Supporting Nominator(s): We encourage anyone who has been profoundly impacted by the nominees’ work to support their nomination. Supporting nominators may submit the following:
    • Name of nominee
    • Supporting nominator’s contact information: Name, mailing address, email address, and phone number
    • Statement of support: Any statement the supporting nominator wishes to make

The application form can be found at http://www.obermayer.us/award/application.docx.



Lead nominators must submit the following materials:

  • Cover Sheet (including personal references, if required)
  • Information About the Nominee(s), which includes:
    • Background about the nominee(s) and their activities
    • Nominator’s personal motivation for making the nomination.


It is not required that you complete any of the next four sections, but they are provided as ways to potentially strengthen a nomination. Please only complete those sections that are particularly important for the jury to consider as it evaluates the nominee(s) or their work.

  • Supporting Nominators
  • Nominee Statement
  • Potential for Broader Impact
  • Supplementary Materials


The Obermayer German Jewish History Awards Jury is composed of international scholars and leaders with extensive knowledge of German Jewish history and culture:

Jury President

  • Karen Franklin (New York); Director of Family Research at the Leo Baeck Institute


  • David Ellenson (New York); Interim President and Chancellor Emeritus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
  • Hanno Loewy (Hohenems, Austria); Director of the Jewish Museum Hohenems and founding director of the Fritz Bauer Institute
  • Frank Mecklenburg (New York); Chief Archivist and Director of Research at the Leo Baeck Institute
  • Sara Nachama (Berlin); Executive Founding Director of the Berlin branch of Touro College (NY) and Vice President and Rector of Touro College Berlin
  • Henry Obermayer (San Francisco); Academic, community builder, and counselor
  • Ralf Wieland (Berlin); President, Berlin House of Representatives

Jurors’ biographies can be found at http://www.obermayer.us/award/jury.htm.


Awardees will be notified by the end of October 2019. Certificates of Commendation will be sent to other worthy nominees after the award ceremony.


The formal award ceremony will take place in Berlin on January 27, 2020 at the Abgeordnetenhaus, the home of the Berlin Parliament, and it is preceded by a banquet the previous evening.  The award ceremony is held in January to coincide with the commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day – January 27, 1945.  Recordings of recent ceremonies are available on YouTube.

Awardees will receive an honorarium to be used for the furtherance of their work. The ceremony and the awards receive extensive press coverage in the awardees' communities, throughout Germany, and internationally (see http://www.obermayer.us/award/news.htm).

Travel, hotel and banquet expenses for awardees and one guest will be reimbursed. Successful nominators are invited to attend all of the award ceremony events in Berlin, where they will meet with the award recipients they have chosen to honor.


For additional information, see http://www.obermayer.us/award.

All queries should be sent, preferably by email, to:

award@obermayer.us or to:

Widen the Circle
Obermayer Foundation, Inc.
15 Grey Stone Path
Dedham, MA 02026