The consul general of Hungary in New York paid tribute to Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue on his 80th birthday recently. The rabbi, a native of Vienna, survived the Holocaust as a 15-year-old refugee in Budapest when 600,000 Hungarian Jews perished.
“He could have come away from the Budapest ghetto hating not only the Nazis but the Germans, the Hungarians in general—many of his survivors have,” said Consul General Viktor Polgar.
“But he had come away with the conviction that in order to never allow such horrors to happen there is but one way: to educate, tell the story, impress the morals of history and eliminate the conditions that have created the monster.”
Schneier revealed how he overcame the pain of his early years in the Shoah: “You go through life with pain but you don’t get paralyzed by grief. Don’t get stuck in the past. Believe in a better world and help to attain it.”
Schneier is the founding president of the global Appeal of Conscience Foundation. Since 1965 the organization has been promoting brotherhood and understanding among the faiths of the world.
At a recent reception at the consulate general, Polgar presented Schneier with the Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit on behalf of the president of Hungary. Among those applauding were Consul Generals Andrey K. Yushmanov of the Russian Federation and Branko Radosevic of the Republic of Serbia.
The rabbi said he faced a dilemma. Does he respond in Hungarian, which is not an easy tongue, or his native German? He spoke in flawless English.
“I’ve worked very hard to lose my Hungarian-German accent. Otherwise I’d be speaking like Henry Kissinger.”
Tim Boxer is editor of 15MinutesMagazine.com.
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