How profoundly disappointed I am with The Chronicle’s unfortunate decision to run the ugly editorial cartoon wherein images of Jews being burned amidst Nazi insignia are juxtaposed with Pope Benedict XVI lauding the “saintliness” of Pope Pius XII (Opinion page Feb. 4).
At the very time the current pope is making meaningful (if fitful) overtures to the Jewish community in an effort to repair a historically fraught relationship, both Catholics and Jews deserve better than canards and caricatures.
As James Carroll in his monumental work “Constantine’s Sword” demonstrates, it is slander to suggest the Church did not resist Hitler. Indeed, the Church’s failure to protest the Holocaust — the infamous “silence” of Pius XII — is only part of the story. The Nazi’s death camps were the culmination of an entrenched, centuries-old tradition of anti-Semitism. And while it is true this reprehensible mindset culminated in the near-eradication of European Jewry, it is irresponsible to paint the Catholic Church with a single brush. Many were the Catholic faithful who participated in an expressly religious resistance.
The Jewish community is understandably dyspeptic over Benedict recommending Pius for sainthood, but such matters are an internal Church concern. What is to be gained by The Chronicle running such an inflammatory editorial in this day and age?
As the Church struggles to come to terms with its past, leaders in the Jewish community ought encourage inter-religious understanding rather than engaging in ugly broadsides that do nothing to advance meaningful ecumenical partnerships. We can do better than to stoke long held fear and animosity at a time when, at least here in Pittsburgh, the relationship between the Jewish and Catholic communities is nothing short of laudable and truly worthy of praise.
Rabbi Aaron Bisno
(The author is the senior rabbi of Rodef Shalom Congregation.)
J Street program lauded
On Thursday, Feb. 4, J Street Pittsburgh, a pro-Israel, pro-peace, grassroots arm of J Street, launched its kickoff at the Squirrel Hill Jewish Community Center. Approximately 100 people who are committed to and concerned about the future of Israel attended this inaugural meeting.
The Pittsburgh kickoff was part of a nationwide launch of over 20 local chapters of J Street that were attended by approximately 2,000 people.
Having worked for the Israeli government and lived in Israel for over seven years, it was exciting to see the energy running through Levinson Hall as participants developed ideas for outreach within our Jewish community as well as to the population of southwestern Pennsylvania to educate and build support for Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
We also explored ways to work with other communities that share a belief in a two state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. I especially enjoyed interacting with people who are genuinely interested in supporting the U.S. and Israeli governments in finding a solution to the conflict so that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security.
The J Street Pittsburgh kickoff was especially important to hold now, when news headlines may not give us much reason for optimism. Despite the current situation, the participants in the program are working to encourage the U.S. and Israeli governments to move forward rather than staying stuck in the status quo.
Let the courts decide
I have been following the issue in The Jewish Chronicle regarding the disinterment and reburial of a husband so that he may lie in eternal rest at another local cemetery alongside his wife and son.
Both sides of the issue are emotionally charged, and it seems like the rabbis are taking most of the flack. If there is one thing I have learned about Judaism, it is that in the Diaspora “the law of the land is the law.” It would probably be better if a non-Jewish court heard this case and decided if a body can be moved at the request of the family.
Don’t be so sure that the court would see no problem in giving the go-ahead for reburial. It may set a legal precedent that would give the funeral homes headaches they wished they never had.
This issue of reburial should not be one that divides the Jewish community. Let the courts decide the outcome, and then let us all agree to accept their decision.
Better vetting needed
The recent visit to Pittsburgh by Effi Eitam has generated considerable debate within our community and within the pages of The Jewish Chronicle. Some see Eitam as an Israeli war hero. Others view him as a dangerous political figure. He is probably both.
What some of this debate has missed is the process by which someone with Eitam’s background is brought to Pittsburgh without a proper vetting by the agencies sponsoring him.
Prior to his visit, there was a series of e-mail exchanges with various people in leadership roles of J-SITE, the United Jewish Federation and the Agency for Jewish Learning, by members of our community who were outraged that Eitam would be invited to speak to our local youth. While everyone seemed to be aware of Eitam’s role at Entebbe, not one of the community leaders who were questioned about Eitam, knew of his recent political statements about Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.
While I encourage our community leaders and agencies to stimulate awareness and knowledge about the Middle East, this cannot be done by misrepresenting the goals and aims of visiting speakers. The outrage that many in our Pittsburgh communities, Jewish and Palestinian, felt by Eitam’s appearance here was remarkably restrained, including the demonstration at the Eitam/J-SITE venue. Imagine David Duke coming to Pittsburgh to speak on politics in Louisiana.
I do not want to censor anyone. I believe that a full and open discussion of the issues is the best and only way to create an educated and motivated community. But this can only happen with full and open disclosure. This need will become more urgent as we face objectively, the disaster of 43 years of occupation and settlements, and the erosion of democratic rights within Israel — something we, as a community, are only now beginning to do.