“May God Guide, Protect and Bless You”
By Rabbi Arthur Schneier
Arthur Schneier is Senior Rabbi at New York’s Park East Synagogue and founder and president of Appeal of Conscience Foundation. An internationally known advocate for religious freedom and human rights, he received the Presidential Citizens’ Medal for “devoting a lifetime to overcoming forces of hatred and intolerance”
“Blessings on your coming in and your going out,” Deuteronomy 28:6.
A heartfelt welcome to the United States, the land of Freedom and Immigrants, where religious communities have blossomed and have contributed so much to the education, justice, compassion and social fabric of the American people. We cherish our Four Freedoms — Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.
Your arrival coincides with the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when we seek to be “at one” with God and with our fellow human beings.
The hallmark of your papacy is seeking to align the people of the world to be “at one” with their Maker and with each other and to accept the “other,” neighbor or stranger. Your inspirational leadership helps unite, not divide, the human family.
On the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, by word and deed you have reaffirmed the teachings of Vatican II and have further widened your outreach to all of God’s children. This has earned you worldwide admiration and respect, and has captured the hearts of young and old alike.
As a Holocaust survivor, I appreciate your stand against anti-Semitism and your personal contribution to the furtherance of Catholic-Jewish relations.
In a world in transition and disorder, exacerbated by religious conflicts, you act with heart and compassion to further mutual understanding and interreligious cooperation in pursuit of peace.
You remind us that we are not only the beneficiaries of a God-given planet, but have a responsibility as fiduciaries of that heritage.
Like the ladder in Jacob’s dream, connecting Heaven and Earth, with humility, heart and soul, you have applied the message of Heaven to deal with the major challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. Faith applied and practiced.
We face an imperfect world of strife —man’s inhumanity to man, all forms of xenophobia, terrorism, persecution of religious minorities, particularly oppressed Christians. Awaken us from the slumber of indifference; silence enables the perpetrators to act with impunity.
Your message of humanity is important in defeating those who seek to hijack religion to legitimize their barbarism. “A crime in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion.” The fanatics that hide behind religion to carry out heinous acts of terrorism have turned their backs on God and mankind equally.
Your Biblical stand on “Man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3) should resonate with the young men and women known as the “none” generation, who have lost grounding in their religious affiliations.
Reconciliation, anchored in faith, is a powerful antidote to hate that we have seen turn tragically to violence in our streets, places of worship and schools.
It is my fervent prayer that when Your Holiness meets with President Obama on the Day of Atonement, followed by the first papal address to the Joint Session of the U.S. Congress, you will speak to us all and help us to be “at one,” united in diversity.
May God guide, protect and bless you with health and strength as you travel life’s journey in pursuit of peace, interreligious harmony and international cooperation.
With high esteem,
Rabbi Arthur Schneierm