Prominent religious leaders convened at an interfaith tribute at Park East Synagogue in New York City to show solidarity after a man shot and killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 27.
“[I]f we stand together, united we prevail, divided we fail. United we can guarantee our security and freedom,” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue.
Dozens of religious leaders, elected officials, law enforcement members and Upper East Side synagogue congregants joined Rabbi Schneier at the special service. Young Jewish students donning “United Against Hate” T-shirts opened the event with a musical tribute, “A Prayer for Peace—Ose Shalom.”
‘The Best of Man Will Prevail’
Schneier, 88, a Holocaust survivor from Austria, said he never thought he would see a display of anti-semitism like this in the United States after escaping Europe at the end of World War II.
“I’ve been through the worst. I’ve seen the beast of man and the best of man,” he said
“And the best of man are going to prevail. The best of man will prevail because we believe in life and not death. We believe in harmony and peace, and not conflict.”
Schneier, who has been the senior rabbi at Park East Synagogue since 1962, won a Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 for his half century of work promoting religious freedom and human rights throughout the world. He founded the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders, in an effort to achieve this goal.
He said the Foundation pledged $100,000 to pay for funeral, medical, and psychological support costs for the shooting victims and their families.
Schneier also raised the practical matter of security and thanked law enforcement services who responded to the attack. He called for more federal funding to help protect places of worship.
“Whether its a mosque, whether it’s a church, whether it’s a temple, whether it’s a synagogue, we can’t handle it ourselves,” he said. “We do need the additional support.”
‘The World has to Change’
President of Park East Synagogue, Herman Hochberg, who attended the service, has been a member at the synagogue for around 40 years. He spoke of Schneier’s history as an advocate against religious hatred and repression.
“During the Cold War … we used to rally in front of [the consulate-general of the Soviet Union] about religious freedom and tolerance,” he said.
“And the Rabbi was at the forefront [of the movement].”
Hochberg recalled his time growing up as a child in Brooklyn.
“I had all kinds of friends, [from] all kinds of religions,” he said.
“But as far as worship, we respected each other. Today, there’s too much hate. And the world has to change.
“The world has to come together.”
Interfaith Leaders Call for Unity
Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called for people to come together to start the healing process.
“[God] bids us … to come together in this holy space, not only rightly to condemn hate, but to console one another, not to point fingers, but to fold hands in prayer, and to hold hands in love and friendship,” he said.
Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, Dean of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, also voiced support for unity.
“We must remember that God’s call to us today is to restore civility in national life and to put an end to division and hatred.”
Brendon Fallon contributed to this article.