Interfaith pioneer rabbi given top French honour

By Jennifer Lipman, May 12, 2011
The award was given to Rabbi Scheier on behalf of President Nicholas Sarkozy

The award was given to Rabbi Scheier on behalf of President Nicholas Sarkozy

A New York-based rabbi who has dedicated his life to the promotion of human rights and religious tolerance has been presented with one of France's most prestigious honours.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor who created the interfaith partnership, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, in 1965, received the Officer of the Legion of Honour at a ceremony in Manhattan.

Rabbi Schneier, 81, has served as the senior rabbi at New York's Park East synagogue since 1962.

The award was given by the French ambassador to the United States on behalf of President Nicholas Sarkozy, in honour of Rabbi Schneier's "tireless efforts to promote and support religious freedom, human rights and interfaith tolerance all over the world".

The honour dates back more than two centuries, when it was established by Napoleon Bonaparte to mark distinguished merit or outstanding service to the nation.

It is rarely given to foreigners, although the list of recipients includes President Eisenhower and Barbra Streisand.

Fran├žois Delattre, the French ambassador, described the award as a "testimony of friendship on behalf of France".

Rabbi Arthur Schneier said the award would encourage him to "continue to build bridges in dialogue between civilisations, cultures and religious communities, and further international cooperation".

Last updated: 2:31pm, May 13 2011