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NEWS - News of the Lodges

by Prof. Erich Leitenberger, Press Officer

As a signal of close friendship between Christians and Jews, "the Menorah for outstanding humanitarian achievement" was presented to the Archbishop of Vienna.


Vienna, 23rd October 2013. On Tuesday evening, the Palace of Vienna's Archbishop saw the festive presentation of the B'nai B'rith Europe "Menorah for outstanding humanitarian achievement" to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn. The Archbishop was greatly moved by this honour from a Jewish organisation. "There are many things which we want in common," he said, "such as the respect for freedom, the respect for the religious beliefs of every person". In this context Schönborn said that the discussions concerning circumcision had perplexed him greatly since this was a matter of freedom of religion and therefore one of the pillars of every democratic state. There are also many things which Christians and Jews together do not want" the Cardinal stressed. "We do not want to see anti-Semitism raising its head again, we do not want to see people being despised, we do not want to see the spread of violence and intolerance and we do not want to see a repeat of what happened on 9th November 1938 when synagogues were burning in Vienna." His links to the Jewish community are a part of his family history, explained Schönborn. His mother brought him and his siblings up "with a great love of Judaism and of Israel". That is why he now wants to continue the work started by his predecessor Cardinal Franz König in his efforts to build bridges between the two religions. In conclusion, the Archbishop of Vienna recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah: "From Zion goes out the law" (Isa. 2,3). In the Ten Commandments the Menorah lights the way for all people.

Victor Wagner, President of B'nai B'rith Austria, pointed out that believing Jews and Christians have much in common, particularly the desire to take religion seriously. He thanked Cardinal Schönborn for his clear statement in connection with the circumcision debate. Without circumcision as "the sign of the union with God", Jewish life in the diaspora would not be possible, said Wagner. He also emphasised that behind the polemic of anti-Zionism lay hidden the old anti-Semitic prejudices – all the more reason for the Jews to be thankful to the Archbishop for his friendship. Chief Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg referred to the cardinal's motto: "Vos autem dixi amicos" (So much more have I called you friends).

Ralph Hofmann, President of B'nai B'rith Europe, recalled how he, as a Jew in Frankfurt, had been disturbed and shocked by the circumcision debate in Germany. He had never imagined that, years after the Shoah, there could be such a level of anti-Semitism. It is absolutely essential that Jews and Christians together fight against such trends.

Numerous leading figures from public life took part in this festive presentation of the "Menorah for outstanding humanitarian achievement". Among them were the retiring Israeli Ambassador Aviv Shir-On, the German Ambassador Detlev Rünger and Bishop Helmut Krätzl. The Roman Grinberg Quartet provided the musical entertainment.