Stern College for Women students Rebecca Rosenberg and Esther Flaschner greet Sen. Clinton at dinner honoring Rabbi Schneier, who looks on.
Mar 21, 2005 — More than 450 people, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Israel Consul General Arye Mekel, and Israel Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman turned out at The Plaza Hotel March 20 to congratulate Rabbi Arthur Schneier on his 75th birthday. The occasion also marked Rabbi Schneier’s 50 years of leadership on behalf of religious freedom, human rights, and tolerance, and the dedication of The Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs at Yeshiva University.
Rabbi Schneier graduated from Yeshiva College in 1951 and was ordained at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1956.
In his tribute to Rabbi Schneier, founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Dr. Kissinger evoked laughter from the audience when he said, “When Rabbi Schneier asks you to do something, it is far less painful to agree than to refuse,” in reference to the humanitarian work Dr. Kissinger has done at Rabbi Schneier’s request.
Senator Clinton told a story about a mission she took with Rabbi Schneier to Shanghai, where they toured a deteriorating synagogue. Rabbi Schneier was moved to help restore the synagogue; he presented its congregation with a Torah and arranged for its reopening. Chinese officials and the Chinese press made it a point to attend this monumental event. “Rabbi Schneier recognized and respected Jewish heritage in Shanghai,” she said. “It was a small but significant step and showed the Chinese the importance of religious freedom and liberty.”
Yeshiva University President Richard M. Joel and Vice Chairman of the YU Board of Trustees Joseph Wilf presented Rabbi Schneier with a spice box in the shape of a globe, representing Rabbi Schneier’s career in global politics. They also presented Rabbi Schneier with a leather-bound Scroll of Honor containing messages of congratulations from President George W. Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney, former President William Jefferson Clinton, the Chief Rabbis of Israel, and Pope Paul II, among many other world statesmen and religious leaders. Chancellor and former longtime president of YU, Norman Lamm, also spoke at the dinner.
Photos from Dinner Honoring Rabbi Schneier
In addition to Senator Clinton and former Secretary of State Kissinger, numerous ambassadors and other representatives attended the tribute dinner for Rabbi Schneier. Countries represented included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Hungary, Switzerland, the Ukraine, Germany, Switzerland, Croatia, Austria, Bulgaria, and Israel.
Rabbi Schneier held back tears as he expressed gratitude to those in attendance and recounted how his grandparents died in the Auschwitz death camp and that he was lucky enough to survive. “God, you saved me,” Rabbi Schneier said. “I owe you a great deal.” Rabbi Schneier said the invitations for Sunday’s event should not have read: “An evening in honor of Rabbi Arthur Schneier” but “An Evening of Gratitude by Rabbi Arthur Schneier.”
One of Rabbi Schneier’s sayings, which he mentioned Sunday night is, “Religion is like fire – it can warm but it can also destroy.” He said much of the world is now struggling for “co-existence between those who believe in ‘live and let live’ and those we cannot negotiate with because they reject you as a person.”
It continues to be Rabbi Schneier’s mission to promote co-existence among all peoples of the world. It is for the efforts he has made in that regard throughout his life that he was honored by so many.