In a weekend of emotions, sharing of warm congratulatory wishes and speeches from a string of local and national Jewish and New York City dignitaries, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, ‘Rabbi to the Diplomats’ celebrated 50 years at the helm of his Upper East Side community, the Park East Synagogue.
Schneier, a child Holocaust survivor from Vienna joined the synagogue in 1962 at the age of 32. Following a earlier stint in the Brooklyn Rabbinate he quickly established a name for himself in his new position as an international activist on behalf of Jewish causes. In 1965 he founded the Appeal of Conscience Foundation that was at the forefront of the struggle for Soviet Jewish freedom.
Schneier has been awarded 11 honorary degrees and has been recognized by many governments including that of President Bill Clinton who awarded the rabbi with the Presidential Citizens Medal. He is also the founder of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School, whose students performed at a tribute service on Sunday.
Other dignitaries to convey heartfelt congratulations included former Mayor Ed Koch, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Malcolm Hoenlein, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Israel’s Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni. Rabbi Schenier’s daughter spoke to the adoring congregation about her father, painting a picture of a man who takes his responsibilities seriously, yet to his children often expresses a playful and lighter side.
On the previous day, Park East Synagogue congregants and many guests heard words from Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor and Rabbi Schneier’s son Mark, who praised his father passionately.
Towards the end of the service on Sunday Schneier took to the podium, thanking many friends in the pews as well as colleagues in the clergy and diplomatic corps. Most of all he offered thanks to God as his source of inspiration throughout his life.