Your All-Holiness, Eminences, Dear Friends,
Good morning. I am Harriet Schleifer. I have the privilege of serving as president of American Jewish Committee - AJC. I am honored to open this ceremony in which His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians, will receive AJC’s Human Dignity Award.
It is my pleasure to welcome not only our Orthodox Christian friends, but also our rabbis and AJC leaders, especially the members of the Executive Council and Board of Governors, including its Chair, Tony Meyer.
Since our founding in 1906, we at AJC have understood that interreligious dialogue is essential in advancing the wellbeing of the Jewish people, indeed all peoples. AJC’s concern for the civil and religious rights of all is part of our agency’s bedrock foundation. The rejection of antisemitism and all forms of hate is not only a necessity for the Jewish people, it is the responsibility of all, in service of humanity.
We know that our core commitments to defeat antisemitism in all its renascent forms and to support the State of Israel’s quest for security and peace among the community of nations cannot happen without our inter-religious partners. Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America have been our partners in these commitments. For that, we are grateful.
As a child of Holocaust survivors, I particularly note that the Ecumenical Patriarch visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in October 1997 and described the Nazi attempt to destroy the Jewish people as an "icon of evil," and heralded the Museum as an "icon of hope.” During the same museum visit, His All Holiness also said: "We respect the role of Israel as a guarantor of the Jewish people's existence."
Fifty years ago, as a leader of the new era in Christian-Jewish relations, AJC inaugurated Orthodox Christian-Jewish relations with an historic outreach to the Archbishop of America right here in New York. AJC was a founding member of the formal dialogue between Orthodox Christian and Jewish leadership which began in Lucerne, Switzerland in March 1977. AJC continues to play a primary role in that thriving dialogue under the leadership of Rabbi David Rosen, from the Holy City of Jerusalem, and Rabbi Noam Marans, who is with us here today.
That same spirit motivated AJC in the days after 9/11 to step forward and immediately contribute to the rebuilding of the Greek Orthodox St. Nicholas Church, which was destroyed during the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, when thousands perished. Tomorrow, on the 30th anniversary of His All Holiness’s enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch, at Ground Zero and in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, Patriarch Bartholomew will celebrate the formal opening of the doors of the new Church and National Shrine. It was a great honor for me to represent AJC and the Jewish people at the groundbreaking and ground-blessing ceremony for the rebuilt church.
What a joy to honor His All Holiness, celebrate the remarkable thirty years as Ecumenical Patriarch, and reaffirm the special relationship of AJC with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Orthodox Christian partners.
It is now my pleasure to introduce Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations.