NEW YORK – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, world diplomats and religious leaders honored Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President and Founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and Senior Rabbi of Park East Synagogue for his six decades of leadership on behalf of religious freedom and human rights and in celebration of his 90th birthday. The event was held at the United Nations under the auspices of the United Nations Alliance of Civilization led by the High Representative H.E. Miguel Angel Moratinos.
Born in Vienna, Austria, March 20, 1930, Rabbi Schneier lived under Nazi occupation in Budapest during World War II and arrived in the United States in 1947. He has served as Senior Rabbi of the 132-year-old Park East Synagogue since 1962, and Founder and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation since 1965, an interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders dedicated to promoting human rights, religious freedom and ethnic conflict resolution.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier has served as a U.S. Alternate Representative to the U.N. General Assembly, appointed as a Member of the High-Level Group in 2006 to the United Nations Alliance of Civilization whose goal is to bridge divisions between societies.
World Leaders Laud Rabbi Arthur Schneier
United States President Donald Trump extended his personal best wishes to Rabbi Arthur Schneier, “Throughout your distinguished life, you have been a great leader in the Jewish community and a tireless champion of peace and religious liberty around the world. Your efforts continue to inspire generations of young people and promote cooperation and understanding between people of every race, religion and creed.”
“Rabbi Schneier is an inspiration for the world and for the United Nations, “said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. “For decades, his efforts as an individual and as the driving force behind the Appeal of Conscience Foundation have promoted inter-faith understanding and peaceful coexistence. He believes, as I do, that diversity is a richness, not a threat, and that as societies become more multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious, we need to invest in social cohesion so that all people feel that their identities are respected and that they have a stake in society.”
Pope Francis offered words of prayer and thanked Rabbi Schneier for his contributions over the last six decades. “I take this occasion to renew my gratitude for your efforts to promote interreligious dialogue and understanding for the building of an ever more reconciled, peaceful and just world.”
President Bill Clinton who awarded Rabbi Arthur Schneier the U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal stated, “Throughout your first nine remarkable decades you have taught us in both word and deed that the open hand is always better than the clinched fist. Your life is a testament of interfaith dialogue and understanding.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Henry Kissinger, reflected on Rabbi Schneier’s career saying, “Through the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, you have had a major impact since 1965, in championing religious freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence. And through Park East Synagogue, you have inspired generations of congregants since 1962 to strive to promote these fundamental values throughout their lives.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated “You continue to work tirelessly and with great dedication in the service of interfaith dialogue and to build bridges between religions and nations. In your various roles as founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, as the initiator of numerous interfaith missions across the world, and as a mediator in the Bosnian War, you have made an immeasurable contribution to promoting international understanding and tolerance.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered words of congratulations, “You survived the horrors of the Holocaust and you became an inspirational leader to your community. You have used your platform to advocate for our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world, as well as to promote interfaith dialogue.”
The President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin stated, “You have dedicated your life to peace and tolerance, to ensuring full and free Jewish life for all Jews, wherever they live. Where nationalism and xenophobia have spilled into religious conflict, you have been the voice of conscience for the world, easing enmity and tension and restoring freedom and tolerance.”
“Although you witnessed the worst of human nature in your childhood, you turned your traumatic experiences into something fundamentally good, as they became the beacon of your ongoing quest for peace and coexistence. You have become a globally recognized champion for interfaith dialogue, religious freedom and human rights,” said Sebastian Kurz, the Chancellor of Austria.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said, “You are an extraordinary visionary of religious tolerance and understanding, whose ideals are markedly reflected in your own service for peace and reconciliation among all religions throughout the world.”
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill shared, “For almost half a century I have known Rabbi Arthur Schneier as a firm and consistent champion of peace among nations and harmony in relationship among representatives of different religions.”
Mohammed VI the King of Morocco, commended Rabbi Schneier’s “Untiring efforts to champion intercultural dialogue across the world. Your action within the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations High-Level Group has significantly contributed to promoting interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier a Force for Change
Rabbi Schneier initiated the Resolution for the Protection of Religious Sites in 2001 (A/RES/55/254), adopted by the U.N. General Assembly. He is in the forefront of energizing government and religious leaders not to remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism or any form of bigotry for the protection of churches, mosques, synagogues and temples.
Rabbi Schneier is the recipient of the U.S. Presidential Citizens Medal for “his service as an international envoy for four administrations” and “as a Holocaust survivor, devoting a lifetime to overcoming forces of hatred and intolerance.” Pope Francis bestowed upon Rabbi Schneier the Papal Knighthood of St. Sylvester, cited for the “good works that he’s done on behalf of religious freedom, international peace and justice.
He has been named Officier de la Legion d’honneur of France and is the recipient of high honors of Albania, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Poland, Russia, Spain, City of Vienna and was presented the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize; Athenagoras Award. He has received twelve honorary doctorates from European and U.S. universities.