Rabbi Arthur Schneier, the senior rabbi at New York's Park East Synagogue, became the 23rd recipient of the Athenagoras Human Rights Award of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America.
Schneier was honored for his work as founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith organization of corporate and spiritual leaders from all faiths committed to promote peace, tolerance, and ethnic conflict resolution.
The Award was presented during the Grand Banquet of the Order's annual three-day assembly, Oct. 25, at the New York Hilton. The Award is presented annually to a person or organization, which has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people.
Established in 1986, the Athenagoras Award honors Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras who served as Archbishop of the Americas for 18 years before being elected Ecumenical Patriarch in 1948. He was universally acknowledged as a visionary leader of the world's more than 250 million Orthodox Christians. Patriarch Athenagoras worked for peace among Churches and people throughout his life.
Previous recipients have included Archbishop Iakovos, President Jimmy Carter, President George H.W. Bush, President Mikhael Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel, and last year's recipient, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America.
|Archbishop Demetrios in his response called Rabbi Schneier, "A most deserving honoree who is internationally known for his leadership on behalf of religious freedom."(Photo by J. Mindala)|
Rabbi Schneier, escorted by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis MD, was received enthusiastically as he entered a packed ballroom. Honored dignitaries included the Honorable James F. Jeffrey, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; His Excellency, Ioannis Plakiotakis, the Deputy Minister of Defense of Greece; His Excellency Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Papal Nuncio to the United Nations; the Honorable Senator and Archon Paul Sarbanes; and White House Correspondent for FOX News, Mike Emanuel, served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening.
In tribute to Schneier, Limberakis said, "As a recipient of 10 honorary doctorates, numerous national and international awards citing his humanitarian and human rights lifetime accomplishments, Rabbi Arthur Schneier is most worthy to receive the 2008 Athenagoras Human Rights Award and we proclaim, 'Axios! Axios! Axios!'"
Archon John A. Catsimatidis then introduced a video tribute to the accomplishments of Rabbi Schneier.
In the video, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew personally greeted and congratulated Rabbi Schneier from the Phanar. His All Holiness and Rabbi Schneier worked closely together as co-chairs of the 1994 Peace and Tolerance Conference in Istanbul, which worked towards bringing an end to the bloodshed in Yugoslavia. In 2005, they co-chaired the second Peace and Tolerance Conference bringing together leaders from all the major faiths promoting peace and tolerance in Southern Europe and Central Asia.
|[L-R] Mike Emanuel, White House Correspondent, FOX News; National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis; Rabbi Arthur Schneier; The Honorable James F. Jeffrey, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey; His Excellency Ioannis Mourikis, Ambassador of Greece to the UN; and His Excellency, Ioannis Plakiotakis, Deputy Minister of Defense of Greece. (Photo by D. Panagos)|
Upon receiving the Award, Rabbi Schneier thanked the Archons saying, "I'm deeply moved and touched by this high honor given to me." Praising the Archons, he continued, "As a great admirer and friend of His All Holiness, Bartholomew, your work is so important on behalf of religious freedom and human rights... Yes, we stand with His All Holiness because he is a world religious leader - respected and admired." Rabbi Schneier spoke of the need for cooperation and understanding among religions and the importance of what he called "the core value of religious freedom". Referencing a quote by Martin Luther King, Schneier says, "We must learn how to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools." He further quoted Patriarch Athenagoras who had said "I do not deny there are differences, but we must change the way of approaching them," and explained how this continues to be a challenge. The Rabbi recounted the friendship and close cooperation he has had with Archbishop Demetrios on issues of religious freedom and the protection of religious sites around the world.
In response, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, a Trustee of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, called Rabbi Schneier, "A most deserving honoree who is internationally known for his leadership on behalf of religious freedom, human rights, and tolerance worldwide with specific interest in Turkey, China, Russia, Central Europe, and the Balkans." The Archbishop concluded by quoting a phrase from the book of the prophet Isaiah to describe the leadership qualities of the honoree as "a wonderful counselor, a wise architect and a prudent listener." (Isaiah 3:3) His Eminence also thanked the Archons of the Order of St. Andrew for their diligent work in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate saying that "they deserve much recognition."
|View photos of the Grand Banquet|