Salzburg Music Festival Address by Rabbi Arthur Schneier

August 1, 2012 9:26 pm 2 comments

Rabbi Schneier's address at the Salzburg Music Festival.

The following is a transcript of an address given by Rabbi Arthur Schneier at the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria, 2012.

Your Eminence, Cardinal Schönborn, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to express my appreciation to the Herbert-Batliner Europainstitut, and its founder, Dr. Herbert Batliner, and to Dr. Erhard Busek for enabling me and my esteemed friend, Cardinal Schönborn to inaugurate the Salzburg Music Festival on a spiritual note, “Creator and Creation.” My admiration to Director Alexander Pereira for having selected Hayden’s Creation for the opening and inclusion of Ernst Bloch’s Avodat Hakodesh. The planning to feature the contributions of major faiths in subsequent years is also relevant when two thirds of the people in the world are attached to a particular faith.

Globalization has so far strengthened religion with an increasing realization that “man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). The nature of our colloquium, “Creator and Creation”, leads me to Genesis (1:1) “And God saw all that He has made, and behold it was very good.” NOT PERFECT, God created an imperfect world, so that every man and women can help perfect it, and become a co-partner with the Divine in TIKKUN OLAM, building a better world.

Today, July 20th, this colloquium preludes the opening of the 2012 Salzburg Music Festival; it is also an anniversary of the closing of the Festival by Göbbels as a result of the July 20, 1944 plot. As a child in Vienna I remember the banning of Gustav Mahler and Felix Mendelssohn, as well as ‘Jedermann’, under the direction of Max Reinhardt. I could not have imagined that as a survivor of the Holocaust, I would have the privilege of addressing you in democratic Austria, a member of the European Union and seeing ‘Jedermann’ with my wife, Elisabeth on Sunday.

Man’s creativity and freedom of choice have expressed themselves in art, music, science and technology, in our civilizations. Civilization and culture have a symbiotic relationship. Our cultural development is derived from civilization.

Greece and Rome have greatly influenced the European culture. Greece with its ideas of art, beauty and philosophy, while Rome is known for its law, government-administration and engineering. Both shaped our political and social systems. Our moral values emanate only from the God’s law, the Torah. Our personal behavior, secular laws, democratic ideals, all of which determine our culture have their roots in the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. They are the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian heritage; they are the pillars of Western civilization. The Psalms authored by King David, chanted in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem and later on in synagogues and churches alike inspired composers; Franz Schubert wrote “Psalm 92”, Igor Stravinsky “Symphony of Psalms”, and Leonard Bernstein the “Chichester Psalms” among many others.

The noted British historian Paul Johnson, historian of religion, author of 40 books wrote in his book “A History of the Jews”:

“All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they had been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had the gift. To them we owe the equality before the law…the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person, of the individual conscience, and…(of)… personal redemption, and so of social responsibility, of peace as an abstract ideal, and love as the foundation of justice….”

Paul Johnson’s premise points to a vital aspect in the development and integration of religion and culture. Judaism places great emphasis on education and learning. “You shall teach them unto your children” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Appoint teachers for the children in every country, province and city, Maimonides decreed; it has been compulsory long before the introduction of public education. Just think of the Nobel Prize. Jews have won a lopsided 25% of that prize because of our emphasis on education.

The basic tenets of religious faith have shaped American civilization. The Puritans escaping religious persecution built their new world on the basis of the Bible. The Bible became the cornerstone of the American civilization. “Endowed by the Creator” is found in the Declaration of Independence and “One nation under God” is in the Pledge of Allegiance. Michelangelo’s Moses may be found at the ‘San Pietro in Vincoli’ Church in Rome, while a marble replica of Moses’s head faces the seat of the Speaker of the House on the Capitol Hill. The sculpture of Moses hangs above the table of the Justices of the Supreme Court. The morals contained in the Ten Commandments are fundamental for the law in the United States.

The Liberty Bell proclaims liberty throughout the land and to all inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10). And in the public square, religion properly interpreted speaks of human dignity, respect of the other, and freedom for all of God’s children. And when marginalized, it is at the expense of the welfare of society. A country that respects law will guarantee freedom for the majority and minority alike. This is the fertile soil for creativity.

The silencing of authors, the banning of composers, the burning of books are the actions of totalitarian regimes who suppress freedom of expression.

Totalitarian rulers suppress art that does not support their diabolic designs. I also remember visiting the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow during the Communist era, Wassily Kandinsky and Mark Chagall were relegated to storage and replaced by socialist art. Totalitarian rulers use art and the written word for propaganda.

What would we have missed had there been no Franz Kafka or Giorgio Bassani (Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Bassani’s The Garden of the Finzi-Continis - Il giardino dei Finzi-Contini) to provide us with their critical descriptions of our societies, if Boris Pasternak (Dr. Zhivago) had not been able to publish in the West; if Marc Chagall or Amadeo Modigliani, Camille Pissaro or Mark Rothko could not have shown their innovative paintings; if Gustav Mahler or George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein or Ferenc Liszt had not had the ability to bring their musical talents to the public; if Irving Berlin had not been able to publish his songs, including God Bless America, to inspire our nation; if Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud had not been allowed to expand the horizons in the physical sciences and in psychiatry.

And the civilization wreckers of today, like those of yesterday who burnt my synagogue in Vienna on Kristallnacht seek to destroy the spiritual heritage of cultures; the destruction of the Buddhist statues, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and cemeteries. We witnessed the latest of such barbarism – the destruction of Timbuktu.

More than ever, we live in an interconnected world; we must preserve our faith, heritage and culture. At the time of globalization we must guard against homogenization, acculturation and forced assimilation. Mobility and migration bring about multi-cultural, multi-religious, pluralistic societies. Pride in one’s heritage yes, patriotism yes, nationalism and balkanization that have plagued mankind – nyet. Too high a price to pay. In Srebrenica on July 11, I was reminded of one of the tragic consequences of nationalism, when I spoke at the commemoration of the 1995 genocide in the heart of Europe.

At the height of the Cold War, in spite of the rupture and hostile state-to-state relations, cultural exchanges were the main venue of contact and communication. Van Cliburn in Moscow, Isaac Stern in China before the Deng Xiaoping reforms, and two years ago the New York Philharmonic playing in North Korea are all indications of the value and power of culture that speaks to the human heart.

“And Ada bore Jabal; he was the first of those who dwell in tents and breed cattle. The name of his brother was Jubal; he was the first of all who handle the harp and flute. And Zillah, too – she bore Tubal-cain who sharpened all cutting implements of copper and iron.” (Genesis 4:20-22)

We see that before copper and iron were sharpened to make weapons, first MUSIC was invented by Yuval to show the preference for peaceful resolution instead of conflict.

God is asking us to use the harp and flute before sharpening of weapons!

Music is the international language that transcends borders and divisions. May the renowned Salzburg Music Festival with the beauty of music be our instrument. Yes, an instrument of mutual understanding, peace and tolerance.

2 Comments

  • Kol Ha Kavod for a beautiful and inspiring address – it epitomizes that best of humanity
    and the highest of noble achievements. Thank you.

    Lois Kirsh

  • Sylvia. herskowitz

    Beautifully said! congratulations!

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.