New York City Rabbi Who Hosted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI During His First Ever Visit to a United States Synagogue Remembers the Pope Emeritus Outreach to the Jewish
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Senior Rabbi of Park East Synagogue and the founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, who hosted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his first ever visit to a synagogue in the United States lauded the former leader of the Catholic Church for his efforts to build meaningful relationships with the Jewish community and to build ecumenical bridges between faith communities.
“I was privileged to welcome Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at Park East Synagogue, the first papal visit to a Synagogue in the United States on April 19, 2008. Symbolic of his outreach to the Jewish community. He applied his wisdom, intellect and heart, in pursuit of peace and inter-religious cooperation. I offer my condolences to His Holiness Pope Francis and the worldwide Catholic community on the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier has had a longstanding relationship with the Vatican as president of the interfaith Appeal of Conscience Foundation on behalf of religious freedom in the Soviet Union and communist Eastern Europe that dates back to Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, this relationship continued with Pope Benedict.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier stated, “Pope Benedict and I lived through World War II. I was a holocaust survivor he was drafted into the German army. Both of us experiencing man’s inhumanity to man. We were blessed with the privilege of working together in pursuit of peace, religious freedom and human rights while battling anti-antisemitism, xenophobia and all forms of hatred that continue to divide humanity.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier and Pope Benedict met on numerous occasions in Rome, Jerusalem, and Naples. As well as the Inter-Religious prayer for peace gathering in Assisi, commemorating 25 years since the first inter-religious gathering convened by Pope John Paul II, promoting peace among the world’s religions. Rabbi Arthur Schneier also visited Pope Benedict at the The Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in the Vatican during his retirement.
“Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will be remembered for his humility and commitment to promoting peace and understanding among all people and all religions. May Pope Benedict rest in peace, and may his memory is a blessing,” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
From: Park East Synagogue and Appeal of Conscience Foundation
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Remarks by German Consul General David Gill – Commemoration of the 84th Anniversary of Kristallnacht
Park East Synagogue, New York City
Shabbat November 12, 2022
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
My dear friend Rabbi Schneier,
Dear members and friends of the Park East Synagogue,
I am truly grateful that you invited me to speak to you this morning. It is incredibly meaningful for me to commemorate Kristallnacht in a synagogue filled with life, community and inspiration.
As the representative of the free and democratic Germany, I feel honored and at the same time humbled whenever I meet people who witnessed these times, when I meet Holocaust survivors. I feel honored and humbled because they graciously show their willingness to reconcile, they express their trust in my and often their home country as it exists today. And I am grateful to hear their life-stories of suffering and loss but also of resilience and incredible achievements, powerful new beginnings – about their compassion for the common good and their commitment to connect people and nations in order to build a peaceful world.
It is their experience and that of every single life affected by the unspeakable crimes of the Nazi regime which underline every-time we hear it, our responsibility that: We will and shall never forget.
This morning we remember “Kristallnacht”, November 9, 84 years ago, when synagogues in Germany were burned to the ground. Jews from all classes and professions were imprisoned in the aftermath, were put into concentration camps and lost their jobs and businesses and some even their lives. Kristallnacht’s burnings and beatings, the persecution of defenceless and innocent people in the public eye sent a shockwave throughout the world. It was the forerunner of the so-called Final Solution, the Shoah, of Auschwitz, the most horrific atrocity and therefore the symbol for the Shoah.
When we remember the Holocaust, we do it in order to ensure that such heinous crimes, such outrageous deviations from our core values can never happen again. Therefore, a culture of remembrance is indispensable in our times. In other words: we, our children, and our children’s children must never forget! It is our responsibility to keep the memories alive. We owe it to the victims to remember the horrors of National Socialism. And we owe it to future generations as well.
I will talk about what Germany is doing to ensure that the knowledge about the Holocaust is preserved and is an integral part of the fight against antisemitism. But before that I want to tell you about – or remind those of you, who have heard it before of – a wonderful development that has occurred over the last three decades in Germany – a revitalization of Jewish life in our society.
When I, as a young student of theology, moved to East Berlin in the summer of 1988, I lived in the borough of Mitte, in a neighborhood which used to be a Jewish quarter. Two blocks from my apartment, there was the beautiful Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue), or at least what was left of it. A very small congregation still existed but it was more of a museum and memorial for the Kristallnacht. That has changed dramatically in an unexpected and wonderful way, like the city of Berlin changed so vividly from a divided city and a symbol of the cold war to an open and colorful, international and diverse place. Today this synagogue, built on and within the ruins left from Kristallnacht, is a meeting place for hundreds of Jews who came to make their lives in the German capital and meet at this very place.
In the last three decades, more than 200,000 people have come to Germany as Jewish immigrants, mostly from the former Soviet Union. Jews from all over the world settled in numerous cities of Germany, many of them young Israelis who moved to Berlin, because they enjoy the creative atmosphere and the cultural energy and opportunities there.
More than 100 synagogues are dispersed throughout the country, beautiful new architectural gems or renovated originals, in one case a 300 years old church was transformed into a synagogue. Jewish kindergartens and schools have emerged in the larger cities, Rabbis are trained and ordained in Germany, and new community centers and houses of worship have been built in many German towns. The German government on all levels is committed to supporting the Jewish communities, including safeguarding their places of worship and community. A contract between the federal government and the umbrella organization of the Jewish congregations, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, guarantees an annual financial support of several million Euros.
This renaissance of Jewish life, culture, visibility and – yes – trust in my home country, is, by no means, something that we take for granted. But we are also proud that Jews have again placed confidence in Germany. Jewish life belongs in our country and will forever be part of our culture. The Federal President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier called this rebirth of Jewish life once “ein unermessliches Glück für unser Land”, “an immeasurable fortune for our country”.
And we want to reach out further, for instance to young Jews with German family roots or not, to offer them an independent, own and inside view of our country. One example for this is the most successful exchange programs “Germany close up”, which gives 250 Jewish North American students and young professionals the opportunity to experience contemporary Germany firsthand annually.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The immeasurable fortune, as president Steinmeier called it, is an obligation for my country as well, to be clear, in the fight against antisemitism. Yes, antisemitism and the exclusion of minorities in general are by no means a matter of past history. They are still spreading in our societies today – in Germany, in Europe but also here in the US.
The German government is aware of the problem of rising anti-Semitism and of the threat, this development means for society. And I can assure you that the political leaders of my country – with the exception of some of the representatives of the right wing AfD – stand up unanimously against racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and extremism. We will make sure that the curricula in schools and universities, training programs for professionals in the private and public sector, a wide variety of places of remembrance and Holocaust-education will address these issues and raise awareness for this important fight.
But this is not just a task for politicians. Equally important is the clear voice of civil society, of the arts and the religious communities, of culture and even sports. Especially in times like these, when right-wing extremist pressure is more noticeable globally, we have to ensure that we take a courageous and decisive stand against all forms of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and against those who advocate hatred in our societies.
Institutionally the fight against antisemitism was intensified in Germany too. About four years ago, Dr. Felix Klein was appointed as the first Federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism. By now all German states have installed similar commissioners.
The rise of antisemitism is something that we unfortunately have to observe in many parts of the world. Therefore, it is ever more important that we stand together. Therefore Germany is a very active member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which is committed to strengthening, advancing, and promoting Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide.
We work together in this important endeavor also as German-American partners. Last year our country’s foreign ministers pledged to take an active stand against Holocaust denial and trivialization, against rising antisemitism and conspiracy theories. How we educate future generations and how we can keep a meaningful remembrance is a central focus of this dialogue as well as Holocaust education during the training of civil servants and military personnel, among others. Together we want to face today’s challenges, including those in which hatred results in social strife and demonization or persecution of those perceived as “the other.”
We are and will be a reliable partner and friend of Israel, on many levels. The presidents as well as Chancellor and PM meet and talk regularly, we have strong economic relations and a broad variety of cooperation in science and research. We have a long tradition of intensive youth exchanges and ties between the the civil societies of our countries. And more than 100 sister city affiliations exist between Germany and Israel.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last year Germany and descendants of European Jews all over the world celebrated an amazing anniversary. It was in the year of 321, 1700 years ago, that Emperor Constantine the Great granted Jews of Cologne the right to hold public office. His edict, which subsequently extended this right to the Jews in all provincial towns of the empire, is the oldest document which references Jewish life in Europe north of the Alps.
What an incredible story of more than one and a half millennia we can tell. It is an exciting and powerful story of Jewish influence and involvement in the arts and sciences, philosophy and religion, politics and economy. There were periods of great success in Jewish entrepreneurship as well as German-Jewish patriotism, resilience and vibrant Jewish life. Countless names stand for German-Jewish creativity and ingenuity, like Zedekias, who, in the 9th century, served as personal physician to the Roman Emperor Charles I or his colleague, Paul Ehrlich, who centuries later won the Nobel prize for his scientific achievements. Many German-Jewish Nobel Laureates followed him, including, of course, Albert Einstein. Caroline Herschel, a 19th century astronomer, was the first woman to receive a salary as a scientist. The entrepreneur Emil Rathenau was crucial to use electricity on an industrial scale and his son, the liberal lawmaker Walther Rathenau, served as German Foreign Minister during the Weimar Republic. Indeed, Germany was gifted with German-Jewish artists, philosophers, politicians, and inventors as well as with hundreds of thousands of non-famous fellow citizens who, through their lives and participation, shaped Germany in a unique way.
But it is also true that the German-Jewish history was throughout the centuries a very dark one. Jews were scapegoated and the focus of conspiracy theories, they were threatened by pogroms and persecution, culminating in one of humanity’s lowest points: the Holocaust.
Therefore, the rich and long German and European Jewish history is also an obligation to continuously assure the trust of Jewish citizens and communities – a responsibility for which society as a whole is called upon to uphold. And Constantine’s edict can serve as a reminder to initiate cultural, political, and interreligious debates within our societies on both sides of the Atlantic.
Thank you for your attention. Shabbat Shalom!
Park East Synagogue – 133 Years Young
Park East Synagogue – 133 Years Young
This weekend was truly a “Shabbat of Legends.” We welcomed Shabbat in with a packed and energetic davening, followed by a sold-out, Young Professionals dinner, hosted by our very own Izzy Karten, with over 350 people in attendance. That morning the energy continued with an inspirational Shabbat Bar Mitzvah, and culminated that evening with The Most Beautiful & Memorable Selichot service.
Weekends such as these remind us of the incredible vitality and reach of our community. Our doors were wide open to young professionals, newcomers, long-time members, families, loyal friends, and Jews from every walk of life.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier opened the evening with a captivating and timely State of the World Jewry Address, which was broadcast live simultaneously.
Our beloved and world-renowned Chief Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot was joined by the Park East Synagogue Choir, led by Maestro Russell Ger and assisted by guest conductor Yossi Schwartz (the new musical director for our day school), in an absolutely stunning performance. One of the most poignant moments of the evening came when child soloist Motti Kalisch joined Cantor Helfgot in a soul-stirring duet. The golden-age musical Chazzan and his young protege moved the crowd of close to 700 to join them in singing, creating an electric buzz of community and togetherness throughout the Sanctuary. Where words end, music begins.
On Shabbat morning, a large crowd gathered to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Michael Trokel. Our Bar Mitzvah boy mesmerized the crowd with a beautiful Torah reading and speech. The entire congregation joined in the singing and celebration of a unique “made for Park East” Bar Mitzvah. We were graced by the presence of many notable dignitaries and guests, including Dr. Jacob Frenkel, Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International and former Governor of the Bank of Israel.
The Sanctuary and Ballroom were overflowing on Friday evening with attendees of the sold-out black-tie Shabbat Young Professionals Gala with over 350 young singles. Many members, as well as first-time guests to the Synagogue, enjoyed this memorable evening in a vibrant and elegant style.
*Photos were taken prior to Shabbat
As Selichot so beautifully ushered us into the high holiday season that is now upon us, support our Kol Nidre campaign and start the year off by ensuring we can continue to offer our world-renowned inspirational programming and help grow our community from generation to generation.
Opening a Window Into an Exquisite Service
We are only one month away from The Most Beautiful Selichot service at Park East Synagogue. Chief Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot has stunned audiences with his powerhouse voice leaving everyone feeling inspired. One individual’s perspective of this most astonishing performance could be considered the “best seat in the house.” This is reserved for the talented Maestro Russell Ger, who gives us an inside look into what it means to conduct such a historical service.
How long have you worked with Park East Synagogue as a conductor?
I started at Park East towards the end of 2011, so I have been there for more than a decade.
What makes Park East Synagogue’s Selichot service so special?
I think that the quality of the voices and musicianship of the singers is totally unique in the Jewish world. I have conducted many choirs in Australia, Canada, and the USA, and Park East is a cut above the rest. Cantor Helfgot has an instrument that is exceptional for its power, range, and stamina and so any ensemble that performs with him has to be top-notch. That special combination of his voice matched with a superb choir is something to behold.
Do you have a meaningful moment from a previous year’s service you would like to recall and share?
The first time we rehearsed Halben in 2013 was very special because Cantor Benny had asked me only a few days beforehand to create a brand new arrangement of this beautiful piece. (I think it had only existed as a cantorial work with organ accompaniment.) The choir sight read my challenging arrangement with characteristic aplomb. I complimented them and said that very few choirs could read something like that at sight. I said I was very proud to work with them. Cantor Helfgot then said he was proud that Park East had a choirmaster who could compose an arrangement like that in a couple of days. So when we performed it for the first time a couple of days later, [we] all felt part of something special.
How would you describe Cantor Helfgot’s take on the repertoire usually performed for this service?
Cantor Helfgot is a throwback to the golden age of Chazzanut, where many Cantors were classically trained tenors with great range and power.
During the service, how are you feeling as you conduct the choir and Cantor Helfgot?
Having done the Selichot service with Cantor Helfgot more than ten times, I know how he phrases and breathes and shapes everything. This gives me the freedom to be very present and spontaneously respond to whatever he is doing vocally and musically. My favorite is when the music does what is called “tone painting,” where the composer paints the text in sound – for example, there is a phrase in Shma Koleinu “Al tashlicheinu milfanecha”, where the prayer beseeches Hashem not to cast us out from His presence. The word milfanecha – “Your presence” – is written up very high and loud for the whole choir, which creates the sense of celestial majesty of G-d’s being. I always find moments like this stirring and uplifting.
Park East Synagogue and RASPEDS Celebrate 132nd Anniversary Dinner Dance
On June 8, 2022, the Park East Synagogue and Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School communities gathered to celebrate the institution’s 132nd Anniversary Dinner Dance, “132 Years Strong.”
This joyful evening of togetherness began with a cocktail reception in the Karten Gallery, after which guests proceeded to the main sanctuary for the evening’s program. The program featured performances by Chief Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot as well as the Park East Children’s Choir, led by Maestro Meir Briskman.
Eric and Morgan Mendel were honored as Guests of Honor.
Dr. Joshua and Jessica Rein were honored with the Young Leadership Award.
Carla Rothman was honored as Woman of Valor.
Fran Margolin was honored as Educator of the Year.
Following the dinner program, guests proceeded to the Charles Brooks Ballroom. The second half of the evening included an invocation by Rabbi David Flatto, remarks by Israel Nitzan, Deputy Consul General of Israel in New York, and President Herman Hochberg, followed by dinner, dancing, music, and entertainment by ventriloquist John Pizzi.
View the video highlights from the 132nd Anniversary Dinner Dance.
View the program livestream:
Mayor Eric Adams Underscores Commitment to Fighting Antisemitism in Visit to Park East Synagogue
The Park East Synagogue community welcomed Mayor Eric Adams to Shabbat services on May 14, 2022. Mayor Adams was greeted by the children at Toby Einsidler’s Children’s service, who sang Shabbat songs for him. After mingling with young families, Mayor Adams met briefly with Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier before his address to the congregation in the main sanctuary.
In his introductory remarks, Rabbi Schneier highlighted that the Mayor’s visit continues a long tradition of Mayoral visits to Park East, as every New York City Mayor since 1962 has addressed the congregation. Rabbi Schneier shared his memories of seeing the Statue of Liberty upon his arrival in New York City as an immigrant and Holocaust survivor in 1948, emphasizing the city’s history as a golden door for immigrants and a vibrant and diverse community. Rabbi Schneier commended the Mayor’s efforts to unite a city strained by division, polarization, the pandemic, and economic challenges.
Following a standing ovation from Synagogue members, the Mayor stated, “You do not stand for me. I stand for you.” Sharing his perspective as a father, the Mayor acknowledged the Jewish community’s concerns about rising antisemitism and violence in the city. He stated his administration’s commitment to protect New York City’s Jewish community and stressed the importance of Jewish New Yorkers feeling safe and secure in their city. The Mayor highlighted his commitment to supporting New York City’s police officers in their mission to protect all New Yorkers.
The Mayor detailed several of the city’s initiatives aligned with the goal of proactively preventing crime through investments in education, pointing to the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School’s tradition of academic excellence, illustrated by RASPEDS sixth grade student Masua Chaiken’s recent first-place win in the New York State Mathematics League Competition. He detailed how the city is investing in screening children for dyslexia, providing mentorship and support for young people in their transition from foster care to young adulthood, and addressing homelessness and connecting unsheltered New Yorkers with support services.
The Mayor closed with a message of hope and optimism that together, we will move New York City in the right direction. “We’re going to tear down the walls of hate,” he said.
Rabbi David Flatto Joins Park East Synagogue as Assistant Rabbi and Rabbinic Scholar
We are pleased to advise you that, after an extensive interview process and upon the strong recommendation of our Executive Search Committee, Rabbi David Flatto will join Park East Synagogue as Assistant Rabbi and Rabbinic Scholar until he resumes his academic responsibilities at Hebrew University in the fall.
Rabbi Flatto’s background, education and demonstrated history of community leadership in both religious and academic settings make him an ideal match for our historic and vibrant Synagogue community. He received his B.A. and Ordination from Yeshiva University, his J.D. from Columbia University Law School, and his Ph.D. with distinction from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.
He is a professor of law and Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, a visiting scholar at Columbia University Law School, and served as a Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Ramaz Upper School from 2000 to 2007.
Rabbi Flatto’s wide-ranging research interests include Jewish law and philosophy and constitutional law and theory. He is the author of The Crown and the Courts: Separation of Powers in the Early Jewish Imagination and his works have been published in numerous scholarly publications. Beyond his Rabbinic scholarship, pastoral experience, and community outreach in New York City, he is a popular lecturer at synagogues, adult-education programs, and campuses across the United States and Israel.
During Rabbi Flatto’s tenure at Park East, the Assistant and Senior Rabbinic search and interviews will continue.
Please join us in offering a warm welcome to Rabbi Flatto and his wife, Yael, a faculty member at the Horace Mann School in the Counseling and Guidance Department in the Upper Division. Rabbi Flatto will be delivering the Sermon this coming Shabbat, February 12.
We look forward to your participation.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier
Park East Synagogue and United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Service Receives Global Media Coverage
Commemorating the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Service at Park East Synagogue on January 25, 2022 included remarks by His Excellency United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor. The service received in-depth coverage from UN News and the Associated Press, where it was syndicated globally.
“Having survived, I pledged I would devote my life to help eradicate antisemitism and any form of hatred to make sure that no other people would have to suffer the atrocities perpetrated on the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Schneier, Senior Rabbi at Park East Synagogue, who also serves as Founder and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders that promotes peace, inter-religious cooperation and ethnic conflict resolution, which co-sponsored the program.
The Diplomatic Corps and Holocaust survivors’ families participated in the program, along with the eighth grade students of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School, who each shared the name, age and photograph of a child killed in the Holocaust.
I was honoured to mark the anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz with Holocaust survivors & members of the @PESynagogue.
Liberation ended the Holocaust, but it was just the beginning of our work to ensure such crimes never happen again. pic.twitter.com/VH9uyS3wMN
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) January 26, 2022
Both Schneier and Guterres emphasized the importance of education in combating the resurgence of antisemitism and all forms of hateful rhetoric. “Let us stand firm against hate and bigotry anywhere and everywhere,” said Guterres. “Let us do the work of ‘tikkun olam’ – to do what we can to repair our world.”
In his closing remarks, Rabbi Schneier said, “In a world of turmoil, conflict, and confusion, may each one of us make a commitment on this 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a solid commitment that we will follow the mission statement of Patriarch Abraham, spiritual anchor for Jews, Christians, Muslims ‘to be a blessing’. May each one of us be a blessing to family, to country and to a hopefully united humanity.”
Chief Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Cantor Benny Rogosnitzky, and the Park East Synagogue Choir, led by Maestro Russell Ger also joined the service.