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Welcoming Pope Francis: David M. Weinberg, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014— This entire newspaper would not suffice to recap the anti-Jewish doctrines promulgated by Church Fathers which guided Catholic theology and practice down to the middle of the last century.
In Israel, Pope Francis to Witness Oasis of Stability in Chaotic Region for Christians: Sean Savage, Algemeiner, May 21, 2014— Following in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors, Pope Francis will embark upon a historic visit to Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank from May 24-26.
Tuvia Ruebner Never Stops Mourning the Lost: Toby Perl Freilich, Tablet, May 12, 2014 — Although long recognized for his lyric poetry in Europe, Tuvia Ruebner has spent most of his creative life in Israel laboring in relative obscurity, cast into the shadows of Yehuda Amichai and other modernist poets who enjoyed top billing among the “Statehood Generation.”
The Link Between Bamidbar And Shavuot: Rabbi Avi Weiss, Jewish Press, May 21, 2014— This week’s parshah, Bamidbar, is read prior to the Shavuot holiday.
What Pope Francis Can do for Mideast Peace: Einat Wilf, New York Post, May 22, 2014
: Justus Reid Weiner, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014
On Middle East Visit, Pope Will Find a Diminished Christian Population: Nicholas Casey, Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014
When Pope Francis Makes His Visit to Israel, This Rabbi Will Be His Guide: Meredith Hoffman, Tablet, May 12, 2014
David M. Weinberg Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014
This entire newspaper would not suffice to recap the anti-Jewish doctrines promulgated by Church Fathers which guided Catholic theology and practice down to the middle of the last century. For centuries, Jews were rejecters of Christ, “perfidious” objects of contempt to be isolated and humiliated until they “saw the light,” a non-people shorn of their covenantal heritage including the right to the Land of Israel. Inquisition, blood libel, pogrom, burning the Talmud and burning Jews at the stake, ghettoization and Holocaust – these were the fruits of 2,000 years of vicious Christian anti-Semitism. In our generation, one pope was complicity silent throughout the Holocaust. Another pope warmly embraced Yasser Arafat way back when (in 1982) no one else would go near the terrorist chieftain. It took until 1993 for the Vatican to accord diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel.
But this is not the whole story, and it is wrong not to appreciate the vast strides forward of recent years in Christian-Jewish relations and Vatican- Israel ties. The ancient Christian anti-Semitism that fueled the Nazi movement has since been roundly repudiated by the Church, beginning with Nostra Aetate in 1965 and expanded upon by Pope John Paul II. John Paul II significantly changed the way in which Christians view, and teach about, Jews. He affirmed that God’s covenant with the Jewish people retains eternal validity; termed anti-Semitism a “sin against God” and called on the faithful to do tshuva for misdeeds against the Jews (using the Hebrew word for repentance); respectfully attended synagogue services and spoke of Jews as “elder brothers”; acknowledged Israel’s right to exist and its right to security; and established diplomatic relations with the state that embodies Jewish continuity. John Paul II’s millennial pilgrimage to Israel in 2000 was indeed an historic voyage.
Pope Francis, who arrives in Israel on Sunday, has deep friendships with the Jewish community of his homeland, and a track record of teaching respect for the Jewish People. He has spoken of Christianity and Judaism as partners, not adversaries, in the modern world; a world where a global struggle is under way against moral relativism on the one hand, and radical religious (mainly Islamic) extremism on the other.
Consequently, Francis should be warmly welcomed in Israel, to build on the bridges of understanding and cooperation that have been established. This is all the more true when we broaden the lens beyond Catholicism, to the Christian evangelical world that has become Israel’s best friend in global affairs. Israeli and Jews everywhere need to be cognizant of and grateful for the moral, spiritual, financial and political support of these believing Christians. They pray and lobby for Israel every day.
And yet, many in the Israeli religious community, in particular, still channel fear and resentment towards Christianity in general, and the Vatican in particular. They scaremonger about purported Vatican takeovers of Jewish sites (like King David’s tomb on Mount Zion), and relate with disdain to well-meaning Christian clergy and even to interfaith cooperation among lay leaders. I have seen angry Jewish religious treatises and newsletters which dismiss the Vatican’s warmer touch as Catholic lip-service, a tactical change in tone forced upon the Church by political realities. They assert that the Church’s goal remains the “theoretical, spiritual and practical destruction of the eternality of Israel,” and the “collapsing of the State of Israel by supporting anti-Israel terrorist organizations, under the cover of concern for justice and humanity.” Such militant talk provides ideological cover for misguided, fringe youth who have taken to occasionally vandalizing Church property.
I say that such radical unfriendliness towards Christians and the pope is wrong – morally, tactically and educationally. Morally, the Jewish People and the State of Israel ought to amicably adjust to favorable change in Christian attitudes where such exists, and it does. Tactically, we need not alienate millions of fair-minded Christians around the world. We have no need to make enemies out of friends and to spurn goodwill where it is proffered. Educationally, contempt for the Church is, I feel, somewhat passé. As a proud people restored to its homeland, we no longer need to scorn. We have the strength to accept the reformed Church and work with its leaders, to mutual benefit. In accepting the Vatican’s outstretched hand, I don’t mean to erase the memory of our galut years; of the Jewish People’s sad sojourn in the Diaspora as a people despised by the Church. Even the friendliest current voices cannot drown out Church history. It’s not humanly possible. We certainly have the right to stand aloof from the past attitudes and conduct of the Church.
Furthermore, distinguishing between today’s pro- and anti-Israel Christians is not always easy for Jews.
The lines blur between Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s rotten Anglican-missionary- colonized heart, pro-BDS Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches in the US, and the diabolically anti-Israel Church of Scotland, on the one hand; and the newly Israel-friendly Vatican and even friendlier evangelical churches around the world, on the other. But we have an obligation to discern and appreciate these differences, and to respond maturely to each in kind…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]
Sean Savage Algemeiner, May 21, 2014
Following in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors, Pope Francis will embark upon a historic visit to Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank from May 24-26. Throughout his career, Francis has shown a deep appreciation for the Jewish people and has made Jewish-Catholic relations a top priority. Yet this month, Francis will arrive in a Mideast region beset by uprisings, sectarian violence, and religious extremism, where Christians are routinely being driven from their homes and persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists.
As one of the few areas of stability and prosperity in the region, Israel has become an important ally for Christians. As such, on his trip the pope will face the dual challenge of confronting extremism, while also promoting reconciliation between the region’s Christians, Jews, and Muslim. “The Vatican is hoping this trip promotes unity among Christians, encourages Christians in the Middle East to remain committed, [while also] improving relations with Jews and Muslims,” John Allen, an associate editor for the Boston Globe who has covered the Catholic Church for nearly two decades, told JNS.org.
A major challenge Pope Francis and Vatican officials face, however, is walking the fine diplomatic line between support for Israel and staying on friendly terms with Arab-Muslim-majority countries, which are home to many Christians and important holy sites for the religion. “The Vatican tries to take a neutral position on many of the political controversies in the region,” Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn, the Jerusalem-based director of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), told JNS.org. The Vatican, said Korn, “is enormously fearful of Christians who are being persecuted and are fleeing Muslim countries in the region,” and doesn’t want to provoke more violence against them by taking sides.
Nonetheless, privately, Vatican officials are often vocal in their support for Israel and grateful for the basic protections it provides to Christians and their holy sites. “The reality is that most Vatican diplomats are inclined to be supportive of Israel because they know whatever problems Christians in Israel face, pale in comparison to the problems they have in the rest of the Middle East,” Allen explained. “Many native Arab Christians in Israel do complain about being second-class citizens, facing travel problems and discrimination,” he said. “But they are not getting shot like they are in Syria, Egypt or Iraq. There is a great deal of sympathy for what they see as basic security, rights and rule of law in Israel.”
Israel has one of the few Christian communities left in the Middle East that is still growing. According to 2013 figures released by Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, there are roughly 161,000 Christians living in Israel, up from 158,000 in 2012. At the same time, Christian populations elsewhere in the region are rapidly declining. According to the Pew Research Center, just 0.6 percent of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians now live in the Middle East and North Africa. Christians make up only 4 percent of the region’s total inhabitants, drastically down from 20 percent a century ago. In Israel, the Christian community largely thrives, regularly outperforming Jews and Muslims in education. But that is not the case in Palestinian-controlled areas. In Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, Christians have declined from about 70 percent of the population a few decades ago to only 15 percent today. “Being Catholic and living in Israel and in the Holy Land is without a doubt a grace and a privilege for many reasons; it means being close to the Holy Places, to local Christians, especially those belonging to the Eastern Churches, and to the Jewish people,” Father Francesco Voltaggio—rector of the Galilee Seminary, a Catholic-Jewish dialogue center founded by Pope John Paul II—told JNS.org. Voltaggio, who will meet Pope Francis during his visit, feels that the trip will cement Catholic-Jewish relations while also being an important opportunity to open dialogue with Muslims. “I expect a step forward in the renewed relationship between Christians and Jews, as well as an opening of hope in the dialogue with Islam, a dialogue that is often marked by wounds, yet is necessary today more than ever, so as not to prevent tragedies, like the violence caused by fundamentalism,” Voltaggio said.
While most of Pope Francis’s itinerary in Israel will take him to the usual spots visited by heads of state—such as Yad Vashem and the Western Wall—as well as to meetings with to Israeli leaders, the most remarkable aspect of the trip may be the trend it is setting. “This is the third consecutive pope who has visited Israel,” Korn said. “This is going to establish an informal policy for popes in the future.” “It really strengthens the Vatican policy of coming to Israel and paying homage to the Jewish people,” he said.
But despite the goodwill developed between the Vatican and Israel, several obstacles remain. One of the largest is that the “Fundamental Accord” signed by Israel and the Vatican in 1993, which established relations between the two states, has not been finalized—leaving Church properties in Israel in a state of limbo when it comes to taxation or other administrative areas. “You can find fault on both sides [for not finishing the agreement]. But the fact that this has been dragged out for so long has become a source of irritation in the Vatican,” Allen said. One of the points of contention related to this area has been the status of the Cenacle—the traditional site of the Jesus’s Last Supper on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Jews also revere the building containing the Cenacle, as the tomb of King David. Hundreds of religious Jews recently held a protest against the building’s rumored transfer to the Vatican during the pope’s visit. Lior Haiat, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official who is handling public diplomacy for the papal visit, said rumors surrounding the impeding transfer of sovereignty over the Last Supper room, as part of finalizing the 1993 agreement with the Vatican, are “untrue.” Nevertheless, he said Israel has been in discussions with the Vatican over the status of Christian holy sites…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –Ed.]
TUVIA RUEBNER NEVER STOPS MOURNING THE LOST Toby Perl Freilich
Tablet, May 12, 2014
Although long recognized for his lyric poetry in Europe, Tuvia Ruebner has spent most of his creative life in Israel laboring in relative obscurity, cast into the shadows of Yehuda Amichai and other modernist poets who enjoyed top billing among the “Statehood Generation.” Though of their generation Ruebner, now 90, was always an outlier—both literally, since he lived on a northern kibbutz far from the cafés of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and creatively. His work focused on loss and destruction, topics out of favor with the generation of newly smelted Israelis. But these days, Ruebner is enjoying a new buzz in Israel. In the past decade, the accolades have been stacking up—the Anne Frank Prize, the Jerusalem Prize, the Israel Prime Minister’s Prize for Literature (twice), and finally, in 2008, the coveted Israel Prize.
Since 1957 he has published 15 poetry collections, most recently in 2013, and two new books of his poems in English translation are poised to come out: In the Illuminated Dark: Selected Poems of Tuvia Ruebner, translated and introduced by Rachel Tzvia Back—who accompanied me on a recent visit to Ruebner—and Late Beauty, a book of Ruebner poems translated by Lisa Katz and Shahar Bram. Ruebner is old enough to both appreciate the newfound fame and realize that it changes nothing; he is still haunted by the past and grateful for the present. For a man whose life and work have been overshadowed by loss—of his parents, his beloved little sister, a young wife, and an adult son—Ruebner has a remarkably bright presence. Hard of hearing, he listens intently and has a sense of humor and playfulness that belie his age. In his poem, “Postcard from Pressburg-Bratislava,” Ruebner writes:
I was born in Pressburg. I had a mother, a father, a sister.
I had, I believe, a small and happy childhood in Pressburg.
All the sadness and displacement expressed in his poetry seem to rest on something solid, secure, even joyous.
Outside the Ruebner home on Kibbutz Merhavia, I was greeted by Galila, Tuvia’s wife, and was immediately struck by how starkly beauty can express itself in an 82-year-old woman. Galila, a former concert pianist, led me inside where her husband was seated at the computer, wearing a long brown jalabiya and a colorfully embroidered Nepalese cap. Ruebner likens the seduction of territorial expansion to that of a mythological siren
The living room is tiny, on the scale of most old kibbutz apartments, its walls almost entirely obscured by works of modern art, shelves of books, family photographs, and Ruebner’s own body of photographic work. In January 1924, when Ruebner was born to a prosperous Jewish family, Pressburg—or Bratislava, as its Slovakian speakers knew it—was home to German, Hungarian, and Slovakian-speaking communities. Picturesquely situated along the Danube, it was sandwiched between Austria and Hungary and passed to Slovakian control just before Ruebner was born. He grew up in a traditional but largely secular household (“We were a little more observant than Kafka,” he noted wryly), where he and his father would sneak their bacon off paper plates in the hallway. He attended the Neolog synagogue with his parents on the High Holidays and his grandparents on Passover and was educated in a Protestant Evangelical school until fifth grade. The principal was a Masonic brother of Ruebner’s father at the local lodge. For religion lessons, a rabbi was enlisted to instruct the Jewish students in Bible stories and religious rituals.
Though he’d compose the occasional poem for a family event, it was prose that captured Ruebner’s imagination as a boy. In grade school, his teacher sent a short story of his to the renowned Prager Tagblatt. It was about a mountaineer who, upon cresting the top, catches the sunrise and promptly tumbles down the mountain. The paper declined the submission, claiming, “This can’t be the story of a 10-year-old.” Ruebner’s formal schooling ended after only a year of high school, when anti-Semitic laws banned public education to Jews. A counselor at his Hashomer Hatzair youth movement group arranged for him to join a Hachshara to train for life in Palestine, where he wrote stories for the publicly posted newspaper. One of his counselors, partial to poetry, suggested that Ruebner begin to write “expressionistically.” Pressed for an explanation, the counselor replied, “A corn leaf is a comma,” and advised Ruebner to read Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus. It ignited in him a love of Rilke and a lifelong passion for poetry.
Because of his membership in a Zionist youth group, Ruebner’s family was able to buy him an exit visa, and in 1941, when he was 17, Ruebner bade a halting farewell to his family and made his way to Palestine. Sent to Kibbutz Merhavia, he enjoyed the work outdoors but found the flat, parched terrain ugly, and longed for the lush and gently rolling landscape of his childhood. The yearning for home was compounded by the harsh welcome the new arrivals received. In explaining why he continued to write poems in German for 12 years after his arrival, Ruebner erupts in a torrent of painful memories, “We arrived during the war, Rommel was at Alexandria; we weren’t wanted. They took all our possessions and divided them among the kibbutz members. My separation from home had been a difficult one. I was a stranger; I felt I didn’t belong here. I didn’t want to change my name, I didn’t want to become a sabra.”
In 1944, he found out why, two years earlier, he had stopped receiving replies to his allotted 24-word, Red Cross postcards home: In June of that year his parents and his 12-year-old sister, Alice (Litzi), had perished at Auschwitz. In his grief he sought the solace of another Slovakian émigrée: a woman named Ada Klein, whom he married. They had a daughter in 1949, but within months the young parents were in a bus accident that killed Ada and left Ruebner seriously wounded with burns covering much of his body. While in the hospital he was visited by Lea Goldberg, already a renowned poet and a close friend…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Rabbi Avi Weiss
Jewish Press, May 21, 2014
This week’s parshah, Bamidbar, is read prior to the Shavuot holiday. Rabbi Isaiah Halevy Horowitz suggests that this Torah reading teaches us important lessons about the holiday. Bamidbar presents the names and leaders of each of the tribes of Israel. It can be suggested that the delineation of the leaders of each tribe is linked to Shavuot as it promotes the idea that the heads of the community should be paragons or teachers of Torah. The parshah also describes the way the Jews encamped around the Tabernacle. Rav Umberto Cassuto echoes the similarity to Shavuot as he calls the Tabernacle a “mini-Sinai.” We simulated Sinai as we wandered through the desert, constantly reliving the experience of revelation.
Bamidbar begins by telling us that God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai desert. Rabbi Nachman Cohen in A Time for All Things maintains that the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot is “to underscore the great significance of the Torah having been given in the desert – no man’s land.” Rabbi Cohen points out that the location of the vast expanse of the wilderness is significant for it teaches us that the Torah is not “the exclusive property of given individuals.” Living a desert existence makes us feel vulnerable. The fact that the Torah was given in the desert also teaches that “Torah can only be acquired if a person humbles himself.”
My colleague Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky inspired another idea. Perhaps the key relationship between Bamidbar and Shavuot is “counting.” Not only does our portion deal with the census – the counting – of the Jewish people, but the Torah, when mentioning Shavuot, stresses the counting of days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. In the words of the Torah, “seven weeks shall you count” (Leviticus, 23:15). This teaches that as important as the holiday of Shavuot may be, equally important is the count toward the holiday. An important lesson emerges. Whenever we are engaged in a particular project, whether working toward a professional goal or striving to achieve in our personal lives, it is important to reflect and to evaluate how much time has already been spent on the endeavor and how much is still required to achieve its realization. Evaluating forces us to consider the gift of every moment we have. Rabbi Joseph Lookstein points out that we must not only realize what the years have done to us but what we have done with our years.
Hence the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot. In the words of the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalms, 90:12). Bamidbar teaches the significance of each person and Shavuot teaches the importance of every moment for the individual.
CIJR wishes all its friends and supporters: Shabbat Shalom!
What Pope Francis Can do for Mideast Peace: Einat Wilf, New York Post, May 22, 2014 —As Pope Francis sets off for his visit to Israel, Jordan and Palestine, his aims are clearly humanitarian, but he risks falling into the pitfalls of the political.
Middle Eastern Christians: Battered, Violated, and Abused, Do They Have Any Chance of Survival?: Justus Reid Weiner, Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2014—Throughout the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, Christians are facing pervasive and systematic persecution that is steadily increasing in its intensity and scope.
On Middle East Visit, Pope Will Find a Diminished Christian Population: Nicholas Casey, Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2014—At the Church of the Nativity, triumphal banners with biblical stories hang in Manger Square, where Pope Francis will celebrate Mass this weekend.
When Pope Francis Makes His Visit to Israel, This Rabbi Will Be His Guide: Meredith Hoffman, Tablet, May 12, 2014—The day before her wedding, Florence Ofer, a blonde 27-year-old accountant, strolled out of the Shabbat service at Benei Tikva, a synagogue in Buenos Aires, praising the shul’s rabbi, Abraham Skorka, who was going to conduct her wedding.
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