Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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.


  • 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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Was Shia LaBeouf’s performance art piece at Manhattan’s Angelica Film Center (where he spent three days watching his own films) a sign of madness or genius? Judging from the lines and the fans, it was the latter. Shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday, approximately 140 people were on line for the last day of the live-streamed event at Angelica Film Center. Fans who waited were happy to give their opinions. “I don’t think he’s crazy,” said Elliot Quartz, an 18-year-old student at the New School, who waited […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Jewish Artists From New York Release New Rap Album in English, Hebrew, Aramaic

    Jewish Artists From New York Release New Rap Album in English, Hebrew, Aramaic

    Eden Pearlstein freely admits that he has an addiction. But his brings people up instead of bringing them down. “I am a chronic collaborator,” says Pearlstein, a 35-year-old rapper who goes by the moniker of Eprhyme, and has released several solo albums. “Deeper and Higher” — his new album — is a collaboration with Shir Yakov Feit, who co-writes the songs and music. The friends and fellow artists both explore the relationship between man and God, and the benefit and emotional weight of introspection. With lyrics in English, Hebrew, and Aramaic, the artists stress […]

    Read more →