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Church

AJC Honors Ecumenical Bartholomew with Its Human Dignity Award

NEW YORK – With references to his trailblazing work on the protection of the environment and  religious freedom, dialogue, and toleration, the prestigious American Jewish Committee (AJC) presented His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with its Human Dignity Award on Monday morning, November 1.

ACJ President Harriet P. Schleifer welcomed the guests and AJC’s Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations Rabbi Noam Marans offered a tribute to the Patriarch before inviting him to the podium. ACJ’s Chair of Interreligious Affairs Bobi Baruch made closing remarks.

His All-Holiness first said in his speech that, “it is a privilege and an honor to receive from such distinguished friends this Human Dignity Award. Allow us to express our deepest gratitude for this expression of love and care, devoted to our humble person, but also towards the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which stands for dialogue, reconciliation, and the fight against religious extremism and hatred…”]

American Jewish Committee (AJC) President Harriet Schleifer, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations Rabbi Noam Marans, and AJC Chair of Interreligious Relations Bobi Baruch present Human Dignity Award to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in New York on Nov 1, 2021. (Photo by GOA / D. Panagos)

Noting the powerful spiritual and philosophical principles that the Orthodox and Jewish peoples share and which are the foundation for cooperation in defense of the dignity of every person on Earth, in whom he said the human and divine intersect, the Patriarch offered the profound quote of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive away the darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot extinguish hate; only love can do that.”

He concluded by saying that, “to fight antisemitism, hatred, and discrimination of all kinds, we all need to be involved. The role of education and families is very important indeed, but religious communities also have a key role to play in eradicating racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism.”

Baruch, in her comments following the Patriarch’s brief speech, said, “we have honored you, All-Holiness, with AJC’s Human Dignity Award today, but you, as Patriarch, have honored us by elevating Orthodox-Jewish relations.”

Earlier, Schleifer said, “since our founding in 1906 we at AJC have understood that inter-religious dialogue is essential in advancing the well-being of the Jewish people – indeed all peoples,” and she quoted with appreciation and respect the Patriarch’s observation upon visiting the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1997 that “the Nazi attempt to destroy the Jewish people is an icon of evil.” During that visit, he also said, “we respect the role of Israel as a guarantor of the Jewish People’s existence.”

Schleifer added that, “we know that our core commitments to defeat antisemitism in all its renascent forms, and to support the state of Israel’s quest for security and peace among the Community of Nations cannot happen without our interreligious partners. Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have been our partners in these commitments, and for that we are grateful.”

American Jewish Committee (AJC) President Harriet Schleifer, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations Rabbi Noam Marans, and AJC Chair of Interreligious Relations Bobi Baruch present Human Dignity Award to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in New York on Nov 1, 2021. (Photo by GOA / D. Panagos)

Rabbi Marans began his comments by informing the gathering that AJC CEO David Harris “looked forward to being here for this award presentation to His All-Holiness.” But he recently learned he need to be in Israel at this time for meetings with the new government. “David asked me to express his regrets,” Marans continued, “and gratitude, and warm congratulations to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.”

He then introduced the award, “which AJC presents to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and exemplar of religious leadership, for people of all faiths… this award recognizes His All-Holiness’ singular care for humanity and the environment, exceptional commitment to interreligious coexistence, and his indispensable advancement of Orthodox-Jewish relations.”

Schleifer’s presence at the ceremony is a brilliant example of the great potential for the continued deepening and broadening of Orthodox-Jewish friendship and relations between Greece, Israel, and Cyprus and their diasporas. Her husband Leonard Schleifer is the Co-Founder and CEO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, whose Chief Scientific Officer Dr. George Yancopoulos, who just two days earlier was presented the Patriarch Athenagoras Human Rights Award by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for his company’s contributions in the fight against COVID-19. The deep and warm friendship that developed between the Schleifer and Yancopoulos families is mirrored in myriad such relationships across the Americas and Europe, founded on the shared values and history of the two cultures that form the twin pillars of Western Civilization. Those personal and professional relations are the bedrock of the people-to-people ties that must complement official relationships in the East Mediterranean and diaspora communities.

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