Since 1978, Leo Baeck Institute has presented the Leo Baeck Medal to individuals whose work resonates profoundly in the tradition of Rabbi Leo Baeck and the Institute named in his honor.
As the last public representative of the Jewish Community of Germany under the Nazis, Leo Baeck worked to protect German Jews from persecution, helping many Jews emigrate and traveling widely to bring the plight of German Jews to international attention. He refused offers to save himself by emigrating and instead submitted to deportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp rather than abandon his community. After the liberation, Baeck moved to London, but he continued to teach around the world, including in the United States, the nascent Federal Republic of Germany, and the State of Israel. Today, the work of the Leo Baeck Institute continues to reflect this commitment to dialogue.
Leo Baeck was appointed to serve as the first president of the Institute named in his honor in 1955. Although he died the next year, he left an indelible imprint on the character and spirit of the Institute, which works to preserve the history of the delicate symbiosis of German and Jewish culture of which Baeck was an exponent and symbol.