- Created on 12 May 2008
New York, NY (April 30) – At the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Jewish Committee in Washington, DC, Archbishop Demetrios of America joined the ranks of a select few, including Billy Graham and Edward Cardinal Cassidy, by being the recipient of the ISAIAH AWARD for interreligious understanding. This award follows close on the Archbishop’s reception of the inaugural “Damaskinos Award” that was bestowed by the American Sephardi Federation and the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece.
The citation on the Award reads, in full: Through your ceaseless efforts as a champion of interreligious understanding and human rights, outspoken opposition to bigotry and anti-Semitism, and unwavering defense of mankind’s most noble values, you have raised high the sacredness and dignity of faith.
The Archbishop was presented to the assembly by Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the AJC. In his introduction, which was followed by a standing ovation in honor of the Archbishop, Rabbi Rosen said:
It is an honor and a privilege to present the American Jewish Committee's prestigious Isaiah Award to His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America for his great achievements in Interreligious Leadership.
Archbishop Demetrios has been a good friend of the Jewish People since his childhood in Thessaloniki before the Second World War when the local Jewish community was thriving and played a major part in the life of the city. In an event held by the American Sephardi Federation and the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece last December, Archbishop Demetrios of America received the inaugural “Damaskinos Award” for “his important work in constructive interfaith endeavors.”
In his unscripted remarks, Archbishop Demetrios spoke of the humbling nature of such an award, named after the Holy Prophet Isaiah. He thanked the assembly and shared with them, both in Hebrew and in English, verses from the Prophet Isaiah that speak to the contemporary human condition of suffering and injustice, yet always tinged with hope for “waters in the desert.”
In his remarks, the Archbishop spoke of the emotional power that this award had for him, noting that in his first year studying Theology at the University of Athens, Archbishop Damaskinos was on the throne of the Church of Greece. He also spoke at length of his personal experience in Thessaloniki during WWII, and how his Jewish fellow students disappeared without warning. This very point was made in the keynote address of the evening by the distinguished lawyer, Richard Ben-Veniste. The Archbishop concluded his remarks by emphasizing the important work of the Jewish Museum of Greece which keeps alive the memory of those whose lives were so unjustly taken from them.
Among the honorees, the Consul General of Greece in New York, the Hon. Catherine Boura, was cited “for her extraordinary work in promoting Greek Jewish history in the United States.” Throughout the evening, hosted by Alexis Christoforous of CBS News, the enthusiasm of the Greek-Jewish community was evident, from the singing of the National Anthems of the United States and Greece by everyone in attendance, to the musical presentation of Nadia Weinberg in Greek, Ladino and Hebrew that concluded the evening.
Of special note was a congratulatory message received from and signed by the entire Holy Eparchial Synod, who wrote to the Archbishop: “We are proud that Your Eminence is the recipient of the Damaskinos Award presented by the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece and the American Sephardi Federation, and we offer our warmest congratulations. The award recognizes your lifelong dedication to fostering good relations between our Greek Orthodox community and the Jewish community throughout the world, especially in Greece and the United States.”
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