As the New York Jewish community gathered last month at the Park East Synagogue to celebrate Arthur Schneier’s 50th year as the shul’s rabbi, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver proclaimed, “Here’s to the next 50 years.”
“That’s ridiculous!” declared Ed Koch. “I wish you 120!”
The former mayor recalled when he had a stroke in 1987 and the rabbi came to him in the hospital. “Say this prayer after me in Hebrew,” Rabbi Schneier told him.
Half an hour later John Cardinal O’Connor came. “Ed, if you like, I will pray for you in Hebrew.”
“Reverend,” Koch replied, “I took care of the Hebrew. Can you say something in Latin?”
Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni noted he was born in 1962, the same year Schneier was installed as rabbi at the Upper East Side synagogue. He first met the rabbi in 1992 when he accompanied Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on a visit to the synagogue. Countless foreign diplomats made it a point to call on the rabbi.
Aharoni referred to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, which Schneier founded and through which he consults with statesmen and clergy around the globe to forge ties of religious tolerance. “Schneier is a rabbi of all humanity,” Aharoni said.
State Comptroller Thomas De Napoli said he counts himself a member of the rabbi’s congregation. Turning to synagogue president Herman Hochberg, DeNapoli added, “I don’t pay dues, so Herman, don’t send me a bill.”
The rabbi’s daughter, Karen Schneier Dresbach, said the family continues to marvel at the accomplishments of their 82-year-old patriarch.
At some point Karen stopped being impressed. “Okay, the Pope was here. But we expect this of you. Keep it going, dad. You haven’t saved the world yet.”