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A descendant of seven generations of Rabbis in Denmark, Rabbi Michael Melchior was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1954. He studied at Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem and received rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and leading rabbinic authorities such as Rabbis Ovadia Yosef, Bezalel Z'olti זצ"ל, Simcha Hacohen Kook, and Avigdor Neventzal שליט"א. Soon afterwards, he returned to Scandinavia to serve as Rabbi of Oslo and later the Chief rabbi of Norway, renewing the Jewish community which was shattered during the Holocaust. In 1986 he immigrated to Israel and settled down with his family in Jerusalem, where he serves until present day as the Rabbi of a dynamic Orthodox synagogue, while still holding the title of Chief Rabbi of Norway. Rabbi Melchior and his wife Hanna live in Jerusalem and have five children and thirteen grandchildren.
It was after the assassination of Israel's Prime-Minister, the late Yitzhak Rabin, by a religious extremist (November 1995) that Rabbi Melchior decided to extend his drive for high ethical standards from the Synagogue to national politics.
In 1999 he was elected to The Knesset (Israeli Parliament) as representative of the Meimad Party, after serving as International Director of the Eli Wiesel Foundation for Humanity during the 1990's. For the following 10 years, Rabbi Melchior served as a very productive legislator and a government minister. Among his government positions he served as first ever cabinet Minister for Social Affairs and World Jewry, Deputy Minister of Education and Culture, and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs under Shimon Peres.
A leading legislator, Rabbi Melchior served as Chairperson of the Knesset Committee for Education and Culture, Chairperson of the Knesset Caucus for the Protection of the Environment, and as Chairperson of the Knesset Caucus for Jewish-Arab Relations. He is credited with major innovative legislative reforms in education, children's and women's rights, and the protection of the environment and social justice.
For his outstanding leadership in The Knesset, Rabbi Melchior was awarded with the prestigious Knight of Quality Governance Award and the Green Globe Award of Israel's National Coalition of Environmental NGO's.
international humanitarian work
A leader of a Jewish Youth Movement in his native country, Denmark, since the early 1970's, young Melchior led some of the first public demonstrations in Western Europe against the oppression of Jews by the Soviet-Union, actively involved in the Let My People Go protest at the time. He later became a member of The International Presidium for Soviet Jewry. Until this day Rabbi Melchior is actively involved in the international fight against Anti-Semitism, as well as the absorption of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union and Ethiopia in Israel.
In 1990 Rabbi Melchior organized the first International Conference on The Anatomy of Hate, sponsored by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo and by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Among the active participants were Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Francois Mitterrand, and many others. In 1998 Rabbi Melchior was sent on a special mission to India to promote reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir.
In 2002 Rabbi Melchior initiated, together with his Palestinian counterpart Sheikh Talal Sider, the first ever interreligious summit in Alexandria, Egypt. This event was sponsored by the Mufti of Egypt, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Israel's Chief Rabbi. The summit brought together religious leaders from the Middle East to adopt common principles toward peaceful solutions to the conflicts in the Middle East.
Currently, Rabbi Melchior is the founder and chairman of several organizations that work to facilitate social change for a shared and sustainable democratic society in Israel. His organizational efforts include Mosaica, which actively works to build a religious peace between leaders of all religions in the Middle East; The Yachad Council, which promotes open dialogue between different strands of Israeli society, fighting religious and political extremism; Meitarim, a network of over 50 pluralistic Jewish schools and communities in Israel; The Citizen's Accord Forum, which promotes the building of bridges of coexistence and justice between Israeli Jews and Israeli-Arabs and he was the founding chairman of Birthright Israel.