Tag: rabbi arthur schneier
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!
Higher Committee of Human Fraternity Visits Park East Synagogue and Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School
The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, an Independent committee consisting of a diverse set of international religious leaders, educational scholars, and cultural leaders, established by H.H. Pope Francis I and Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al Tayeb of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, met with Rabbi Arthur Schneier at Park East Synagogue and Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School on Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
The delegation members included: Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdelsalam, Secretary-General of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity; Irina Bokova, Former Director-General of UNESCO; Adama Dieng, Former UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide; Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guixot, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Holy See; Professor Mohamed Hussein Mahrasawi, President of Al-Azhar University; Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi at Washington Hebrew Congregation; and Latifa Ibn Ziaten, Founder and President of Imad ibn Ziaten Youth Association for Peace.
The students of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School welcomed the delegation with Havenu Shalom and songs of peace; Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdelsalam and Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guizot addressed the students and faculty.
Image credit: The Appeal of Conscience Foundation
NYPD Commissioner Shea and FBI Assistant Director Sweeney Speak Out Against Anti-Semitic Crimes During Shabbat Visit to Park East Synagogue
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, addressed the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York when they spoke to congregants at Park East Synagogue at Shabbat services on Saturday, June 26th.
“As a Holocaust Survivor, I am distraught by the widespread virus of anti-Semitism and the increase of hate crimes directed at the Jewish community,” said Park East Synagogue Senior Rabbi, Arthur Schneier. “Unlike what I witnessed more than eighty years ago I am grateful that those responsible for protecting all citizens are standing with Jewish New Yorkers and are committed that anti-Semitic acts will not be tolerated and the perpetrators of those crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The NYPD has never, and will never, tolerate hate in our city in any form,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “One incident is one too many, and the recent rise in anti-Semitic crimes only strengthens our resolve to work hand-in-hand with our Jewish communities across the five boroughs. As we combat all forms of prejudice, we will continue to build trust and strengthen relationships to ensure that everyone, in every New York City neighborhood, is safe – and that they feel safe, too.”
“Hate crimes have no place in our society,” stated William Sweeney, Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office. “Everyone needs to know that they can help us confront new and emerging threats by sharing information through the trusting relationships we share, to include our close relationship with the NYPD. Working with the communities we serve helps us fully appreciate your needs and maintain awareness of the challenges you face.”
Rabbi Arthur Schneier Honored by Dohány Street Synagogue in Hungary for 90th Birthday
October 28, 2020 – Rabbi Arthur Schneier will be honored today by Dohány Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary, with a plaque celebrating his 90th birthday and his support of Hungarian Jewry. The award, presented by Dr. Róbert Frölich, Chief Rabbi of the Dohány Street Synagogue, recognizes Rabbi Schneier’s decades of leadership on behalf of religious freedom, human rights and tolerance. United States Ambassador to Hungary David B. Cornstein, a member of Park East Synagogue, will accept the honor on Schneier’s behalf.
Born in Vienna, Austria and raised in Hungary, Rabbi Schneier, a Holocaust survivor, has served as Senior Rabbi at Park East Synagogue in New York for more than 50 years. He is the founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders that promotes peace, inter-religious cooperation and ethnic conflict resolution.
About Park East Synagogue
Founded in 1888, Park East Synagogue is an historic New York City landmark house of worship and one of the nation’s leading modern Orthodox congregations. It plays a vital role in the cultural, civic and spiritual life of New York City. The Synagogue is dedicated to providing the opportunity for spiritual growth, Jewish education and spiritual comfort for individuals, families, and our community. Park East Synagogue is inclusive of all people seeking a meaningful Jewish life, regardless of degree of observance, knowledge of Jewish tradition, age, or affiliation.
Park East Synagogue is committed to providing inspiring Jewish and general studies education to children and to adults; its Religious School, Early Childhood, and Day School with its emphasis on cultivating a Jewish life rich in tradition and unrivaled in general studies has been, and continues to be, a source of character and vitality for its congregation. The synagogue’s influence, strength and dynamism in the community derive from the members of our congregation. We value and honor the role our congregants fulfill in defining and shaping our future and that of the Jewish community, in New York City and beyond. Visit parkeastsynagogue.org
Stemming a global wave of anti-Semitism
Stemming a global wave of anti-Semitism
As a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor, I recently accepted the invitation of the Austrian Parliament President, Wolfgang Sobotka, to give the keynote address on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht. It was an emotional return to my boyhood hometown, where I first experienced the horrors of anti-Semitism. But it was also painful, knowing that this cancer has reappeared and become widespread.
It brought back memories of November 10, 1938, when I watched indifferent police and firefighters stand by as my synagogue, the Polnische Tempel in Vienna, burned to the ground. Heinrich Heine, the German-Jewish poet, spoke as a prophet when he said, “Where books are burned, in the end humans will be burned, too.” My experience taught me that those who burn books, dehumanize Jews, and burn synagogues would burn human beings in the crematoria of Auschwitz, my family’s graveyard.
I witnessed SS and SA troops vandalize and plunder the apartments in our building. The next morning, on my way to school, I saw Jewish men lined up in front of the Ministry of Defense building, waiting for their deportation to the concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald. Some never returned.
With the Anschluss on March 12, 1938, a few days before my eighth birthday, my beautiful Viennese childhood world collapsed. Soon, the city was decked out in swastika flags. Seemingly overnight, I had become an outsider. Most of my Christian classmates shunned me. I became an “Unerwünschter,” an unwanted person in the classroom, on the football field, in the pastry shop, where “Jews and dogs are not wanted.”
I learned, for the first time, that children are not born with hatred –they are taught to hate.
After the Holocaust, I did not think that we would have to talk about anti-Semitism again. The cancer of anti-Semitism seemed to be in remission – it was no longer socially acceptable.
But now the cancer is back, and it has metastasized in Europe and in the United States, the latest manifestation in Pittsburgh. The internet has turned into a borderless space for anti-Semites to find and encourage one another.
Europe has had a tragic history for Jews: inquisition, persecution, ghettoization, pogroms, and the Holocaust. After emancipation, wherever Jews were welcome, they made a contribution to culture, science, music, medicine, and the arts, as well as to the welfare of their host country. Jews always fared better in times of stability and suffered during periods of turbulence and instability.
The current upheaval in the European Union, including the integration of immigrants, some of whom have been indoctrinated with hatred for Jews, threatens the safety and security of Jews in many European countries and has stimulated the rise of anti-Semitism.
Europe’s peaceful and prosperous future is linked to a Europe free of anti-Semitism and camouflaged anti-Zionism. In an encouraging sign, some world leaders recognize that and are no longer silent. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently stood in a Berlin synagogue and condemned a troubling resurgence of anti-Semitism in her country. She warned that even a subtle erosion of vigilance against hatred can allow it to take root anew. The same day, French Prime Minister Edouard Phillippe cautioned that anti-Semitic incidents had increased nearly 70 percent this year.
It is also encouraging to see the youngest European Head of State making it a priority to combat this plague. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, currently serving as the President of the Council of the European Union, convened a high-level conference this month to explore how to combat an alarming rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism across Europe. The conference is a clarion call to action.
The scourge of anti-Semitism is like a genie out of the bottle: we can’t undo it, but we can hope to contain it while we try to prevent the poisoning of the current generation.
Let’s be clear: anti-Semitism not only victimizes Jews, it’s an indicator of how a society treats other religious, ethnic and racial minorities. Anti-Semitism is a hate crime perpetrated by those who want to erase the dignity and values of each and every human being. It is the fodder for violence against humanity, culminating in crimes of racism and xenophobia, its natural mutations.
In the Book of Leviticus it is said: “neither shalt thou stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.” Silence is not the answer. It only encourages the perpetrators and demands a high toll in the end. We must isolate the perpetrators who incite hatred and conflict and reject peaceful co-existence.
We can learn from this that disunity and division, hatred and discord are the false answers to the many questions that living together in a society ask from us. We have to win over the silent majority – and shake them awake. I am convinced that the silent majority wants peaceful coexistence in mutual respect.
In Europe, government alone cannot stem the scourge of anti-Semitism; this work requires coalitions of business and religious leaders, intellectuals and educators. Every nation should be encouraged to designate an official whose sole task is to coordinate efforts to stem hatred and encourage a sense of common humanity.
In education, we should adopt policies on Holocaust education and curricula that includes not just tolerance of the “other,” but mutual understanding, respect, and acceptance of the “other.”
“And you shall teach them to your children and speak of them,” says Deuteronomy 6:7. Teaching “love your neighbor as yourself,” and a transmission of the democratic values are the cornerstone of the civilized world. Maybe, in classrooms of diverse peers, the children and grandchildren of those subsumed by hate will learn why hate leads nowhere. Hate has never built anything.
Let us work together with clear commitment: Never again.
Let us resist man’s inhumanity to man. Our common destiny requires us to develop bonds of common humanity. United we prevail, divided we fail. We cannot change the past, we must remember and learn from it; today, we can shape the future for our children and grandchildren, a future of peace, freedom and democracy.
BY RABBI ARTHUR SCHNEIER, for The Hill — 12/02/18 11:00 AM EST
Rabbi Arthur Schneier is president and founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and senior rabbi of Park East Synagogue in New York.