Arthur Schneier, senior rabbi at Manhattan’s Park East Synagogue since 1962, can add a new title to his name. On April 27, Schneier will become a Knight of St. Sylvestor, the fifth-highest papal order, at the behest of Pope Francis.
Archbishop Bernardito C. Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations (a truly fantastic job title), issued a statement announcing Schneier’s Papal knighting: “Pope Francis is bestowing the honor on Rabbi Arthur Schneier who has worked unceasingly to promote peace and mutual understanding, in the firm conviction that respect for fundamental human rights, including religious freedom, are indispensable values for all peoples of the world to enjoy peace, security and shared prosperity. A Holocaust survivor, Rabbi Schneier has always held this conviction in his heart and made it a principle of life.”
Other notable members of the Order of St. Sylvester are Oscar Schindler, Bob Hope, and Don Maclean. The order is one of three open to non-Catholics, and includes several Jews. In 1998, Rabbi Mordecai Waxman of Temple Israel, located in Great Neck, NY, was named a Knight Commander of Saint Gregory the Great, the fourth highest Papal order.
Schneier is no stranger to high-profile accolades. He’s received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the U.S. Department of State Special Recognition Award (twice), and 11 honorary doctorates.
He’s also a familiar name to the Vatican. In 2008, he hosted Pope Benedict XVI at Park East in what was the first Papal visit to a U.S. synagogue.
Schneier came under fire in 2013 when his Appeal of Conscience Foundation announced plans to give their World Statesmen Award, which honors individuals furthering religious tolerance, to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who failed to support religious minorities within his country.