UN ambassadors from over 10 countries joined some hundred community leaders, dignitaries and diplomats to conduct the first-ever ceremony of ‘Tashlich’ held at the UN Monday evening.
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The event, organized by the Israeli mission at the UN, in partnership with the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, is part of Israel’s campaign to gain UN recognition of Yom Kippur as an official UN holiday, as well as celebrate the opening of the 70th Session of the General Assembly in a diplomatic and cultural fashion.
Ambassadors from France, Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Canada, Micronesia, Tanzania and Sierra Leone, mingled with the crowd in the Rose Garden overlooking the East River, as outgoing Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor went from person to person bidding farewell before leaving his post next month.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made an unscheduled appearance at the ceremony, raising its profile to the joy of the Israeli mission.
After biting into mini rolls on the bank of the river, the Secretary General and the Ambassadors tossed the remaining pieces of bread into the East River.
“We are here today to participate in a unique tradition – Tashlich, which literally means to toss. It’s an opportunity to symbolically cast off the sins of the past and let the flowing water carry away the shortcomings of the previous year,” Prosor told the crowd. “As we mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations this is an opportunity to reflect off this institution where it has fallen short and where we have not done enough to alleviate human suffering. 70 years on, it is time for voices of reason, of tolerance and moderation to reclaim the public space.
The outgoing ambassador added: “As my time in New York comes to a close, I’ve started to reflect on the past four years I think of all the friends and partners who made these achievements possible, and I want to say: Thank you.”
The ceremony was conducted by Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue. Prior to the actual ceremony, the 85-year-old Rabbi recited the prayer “Min HaMeitzar Karati Yah” ( In my distress space I called on The Lord), which, he said, resonated very much with him as a Holocaust survivor. “Here we stand, as a Holocaust survivor liberated in Budapest on January 13, 1945, as God answered our prayers – with the establishment of the UN 70 years ago,” Rabbi Schneier asserted. “God answered our prayers because we hope that mankind will have learned a lesson to come together and build a lasting peace.”
“The fact that we are gathering here at the UN shows the respect that the United Nations has for all faiths, their holidays and for their stress on human dignity,” he added. “Day of Atonement means to be at one – at one with God and one with man.”
But Rabbi Schneier also had a message to the UN Secretary-General: “Just like the fish eyes are always open, stay alert and keep your eyes open. Not only deal with crises facing humanity but help prevent those crises.”
Jacob Kornbluh is a political correspondent for www.jpupdates.com.