Excerpts from the Roger E. Joseph Prize Acceptance Speech

Monday, June 2, 2003

Excerpts from the Roger E. Joseph Prize Acceptance Speech
Investiture and Ordination Ceremonies of
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/New York
At Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York
May 4, 2003

Awarded to Daniel Pearl, posthumously, and The Daniel Pearl Foundation
Accepted by Professor Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl’s father

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History will record that there was a young man who, in a moment of extreme crisis, looked straight in the eye of evil, and said:

"My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish"

He did not say it under duress, nor did he say it with Chutspa or with gallantry. He said it in his usual matter-of-fact way, slightly irritated, as if saying: "How many times do I have to repeat myself? 2 plus 2 equals 4! and I am Jewish!"

What did he mean by those eleven words?

To Danny, "I am Jewish" meant "I respect Islam precisely because I am Jewish, and I expect you to respect me and my faith precisely because you are, or claim to be good Moslem."

In other words, "I come from a place where one's heritage is the source of one's strength, and where strength is measured by one's capacity to accommodate diversity, because it is only through diversity that we recognize our common humanity."

"Therefore, I am the litmus test of your faith and your strength. Let's come to our senses!"

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I would like European journalists to understand that each time they portray Americans or Israelis as blood-thirsty baby killers they breed another Omar Sheikh and they risk the lives of millions of innocent human beings like Danny. In a world roamed by religious fanatics, the sport of intellectualizing with fuels of resentment is no longer cute -- it is plainly irresponsible. Once the public realizes the human cost of certain editorial styles, the European press is likely to become more honest and responsible.

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The U.S. is now facing the challenge of building bridges of friendship toward the Muslim world, and of restoring America's image as a beacon of values, progress and basic freedoms. The legacy of dialogue makers like Daniel Pearl, who earned the respect of decent people on both sides of the East/West divides, and who symbolize America's humanity and goodwill, will become a powerful catalyst in forging a new and better world in the aftermath of the current conflict.

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History recalls another Jewish person whose face and tragic end personified the horrors of an era -- Anne Frank. Paralleling the story of Anne Frank in the early 1950's, the drama of Daniel Pearl now inspires Jews and non-Jews alike to reflect on the anatomy of hatred and the consequences of anti-Semitism and to stand up for tolerance and understanding everywhere.

The difference however is that the diary of Anne Frank was discovered after the holocaust, while Danny's story came to public attention in time to prevent a holocaust. This gives us the hope that, some day, I will be able to tell my grandson:
"You see, Adam? Your father's legacy helped us win that battle! Humanity has triumphed!"

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