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Rabbi Arthur Schneier addressing United Nations General Assembly
May 12, 2020
New York, NY
Rabbi Arthur Schneier addressing United Nations General Assembly The Role of Religious Leaders in Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19

We are grateful to Ambassador Omar Hilale representing His Majesty King Mohammed VI of the Kingdom of Morocco for bringing us together at a critical time for humanity. Ambassador, a good deed for a Ramadan Mubarak, Ramadan Mubarak to you and all our Muslim brothers.

Secretary-General Guterres, thank you for your daily calls of action for unity to save our civilization. God bless you.

I ask you all to join me in a moment of silence, wherever you are in prayer, for the victims of COVID-19, for the healing of the infirmed, and gratitude to all those on the front-line and let us pray for the people of the Nations we represent, and for all humanity. Just give a moment of silent prayer wherever you are.

In our hour of distress, as Psalm 118 tells us, God please, please answer all our prayers and save us and humanity so that we can serve as co-partners in building a better world.

Secretary General, President Muhammad-Bande, High Representative Moratinos, of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Under-Secretary Fleming, Your Excellencies and Your Eminences:

I am honored to participate with Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso (President, Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue), addressing us on behalf of His Holiness Pope Francis, known for his love and inclusive embrace of all, and Mr. Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary General of the Rabita Mohammadia of Oulémas of the Kingdom of Morocco.

I would like to pay tribute to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco for his leading role in promoting the values of dialogue among religions and cultures, mutual respect, unity and human dignity.

With faith, prayer and united action we can build a brighter future for our children, a world of peace, love and kindness and generosity. My own life experience: every crisis and conflict comes to an end.

I speak as a survivor of the Holocaust and World War II and the president and founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a coalition of business and religious leaders of major faith communities, who for over 50 years have worked together, united for freedom, human rights and peaceful coexistence.

Flashback, after Allied Victory Day, May 9, 1945 the world awoke to the realization of a Europe in shambles with the loss of over 50 million people including 6 million of the Jewish people my grandparents and family members who perished in Auschwitz.

At that time, the world was left with heavy losses and scars but with the aid of the Marshall Plan and the generosity of the victors, Europe was rebuilt. With hope, the United Nations was established seventy-five years ago, a classic example of mankind’s history: destruction, devastation, loss of life, rebuilding, restoration as a result of united action and ultimately REBIRTH.

This is our shared history…from disease and pestilence to human conflicts to natural disasters.

I believe firmly, we emerge, we ALWAYS emerge.

The pandemic is an additional reminder – often ignored and forgotten – that we are one humanity with a common destiny. As we emerge from this current devastation, we have an opportunity to build a better, more loving, and more generous world together. UNITED WE PREVAIL – DIVIDED WE FAIL. Yes, as Pope Francis says: “we are in the same boat”, we swim together or we sink together.

COVID-19 has shown no mercy; there is no immunity – no borders, no denominations, the young – the old, the rich – the poor; the have-nots most of all, but not exclusively.

As a result of the pandemic, we face many dislocations in education, the stigmatization of the elderly, those lonely and isolated, and social unrest. Together we religious leaders must offer to be a source of comfort and strength to them, our children, the lost and the infirmed.

As People of Faith we must be in the forefront of countering the hatemongers in our midst who have invaded social media to disseminate xenophobia, anti-Semitism, bias against minorities and conspiracy theories exploiting this tragic time for hatred and division. Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres for your voice of conscience, sounding the alarm to confront the lepers of bias.

As People of Faith we must shield our children from the transmission of division and hatred. By example, yes, by our practice, we must serve as their moral compass to educate them of our moral commitment: to”, “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF” (Leviticus 19:18) and “RESPECT, RESPECT THE OTHER” in a concerted effort to unite our divided human family.

Together, we must work to heal the divisions and strengthen those forces committed to promoting mutual acceptance and peaceful co-existence.

Globally, children facing this extraordinary time have it right – do you know what they are doing? drawing rainbows and displaying them in the windows for the world to see. We can learn from their simplicity and hope.

Let’s go back to Noah’s civilization destroyed by the flood but Noah emerged. God sent a sign of rebirth: a rainbow with seven colors. Each color maintains its character; yet together they are in harmony. UNITY IN DIVERSITY. That’s what the world is all about. If we want to preserve our humanity, our civilization, we must follow the rainbow; mutual acceptance and respect blending together in peaceful coexistence. LIVE and LET LIVE.

After the great flood, Patriarch Abraham and a new generation emerged. Your presence, Your Excellencies, here today, gives us hope and courage for the road we still have to travel together, as we strive to fulfill Abraham’s mission: “V'HEYE BRACHA,” (Genesis 12:3) “be a blessing to the human family”. Each one of us can be a blessing to the human family.

The basic concept of Judaism is “Tikkun Olam” - repairing the world. Each one of us is placed on this earth to help perfect an imperfect world – a belief embraced by His Holiness Pope Francis and His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

The founding fathers of the United Nations were keenly aware of the meaning of its name. For only UNITED we can prevail now and in the future.

As religious leaders, we cannot solve the medical challenges and extraordinary economic upheaval caused by this pandemic. We can and must redouble our efforts to unite a divided family, and to remind our people – now more than ever – love your neighbor as yourself and respect the other.

Your Excellencies, just as we had the Marshall Plan, we all have the responsibility to come together with all sectors of society: government, finance, business, art, culture and religion in an Alliance of Civilization to establish, a 21st Century Recovery Plan to repair and improve our wounded world.

May God bless and “establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17) Thank you and God bless you all.

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