Bishop should apologize for Hitler remark, ADL says

An address by a Roman Catholic bishop that compared President Obama’s health care policies to Hitler’s actions did not play well in Peoria.

The Anti-Defamation League has called on Peoria Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky to apologize for statements in his April 15 homily, which ADL Greater Chicago-Upper Midwest Regional director Lonnie Nasatir told the Chicago Tribune were “completely over the top.”

Jenky referred to Obama’s policies as one of many government challenges through the centuries with which the Catholic Church has had to deal.

“Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care,” Jenky said in his homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Nasatir told the Tribune that “Clearly, Bishop Jenky needs a history lesson. There are few, if any, parallels in history to the religious intolerance and anti-Semitism fostered in society by Stalin, and especially Hitler, who under his regime perpetuated the open persecution and ultimate genocide of Jews, Catholics and many other minorities.”

Altschuler concedes to Bishop in suburban N.Y. race

Randy Altschuler conceded the congressional election in a suburban New York district to incumbent Rep. Tim Bishop.

Altschuler, a Republican, is trailing the Democrat Bishop by 263 votes, unofficial counts show in the eastern Long Island district.

In his concession Wednesday, Altschuler said he concluded that a hand recount of 200,000 ballots was unlikely to change the result and would be overly burdensome on district taxpayers. Altschuler would have joined Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the incoming majority leader, as the second Republican Jewish lawmaker in Congress.

“I plan to stay active in politics and continue to speak out on the issues that affect the residents of Suffolk County, our state and our nation,” Altschuler said in a statement Wednesday. “Those issues include high taxes, runaway spending and an ever-growing deficit.”

Altschuler had spent $2.8 million of his own money on the race.

It was the last contested result in an election in which Democrats lost the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans, who hold a 63-seat margin over Democrats in the 435-member House.

Pope Admits He Mishandled Bishop Matter

ROME (JTA)—Pope Benedict XVI admits in a letter that his rehabilitation of a Holocaust-denying bishop backfired.

The remarkable letter to bishops, whose text was officially released Thursday by the Vatican, also says the Vatican must become Internet savvy to
prevent further mishaps.

Benedict specifically addressed the Jan. 21 lifting of the excommunication order on Richard Williamson and three other traditionalist bishops, saying
it unleashed “an avalanche of protests” whose “bitterness laid bare wounds deeper than those of the present moment.”

Lifting the excommunications had been intended to heal a rift in the church. But due to the uproar over Williamson, the pope said, it “suddenly appeared
as something completely different: as the repudiation of reconciliation between Christians and Jews,” and a revocation of the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The pope continued, “A gesture of reconciliation with an ecclesial group engaged in a process of separation thus turned into its very antithesis: an
apparent step backwards with regard to all the steps of reconciliation between Christians and Jews taken since the Council—steps which my own
work as a theologian had sought from the beginning to take part in and support.” This, Benedict said, he “can only deeply regret.”

“I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned
the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news,” the pope said.

A pontiffs very rarely issues a document admitting errors in such a detailed and personal way. Benedict said he was particularly hurt by the “open
hostility” from within the Church itself.

“Precisely for this reason I thank all the more our Jewish friends, who quickly helped to clear up the misunderstanding and to restore the
atmosphere of friendship and trust which—as in the days of Pope John Paul II—has also existed throughout my pontificate and, thank God, continues
to exist.”

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised the pope.

“The Pope has found clear and unequivocal words regarding Bishop Williamson’s Holocaust denial, and he deserves praise for admitting that
mistakes were made within the Vatican in the handling of this affair,” Lauder said in a statement.

“The Pope’s letter conveys the essential requirements for interreligious dialogue: candor and the willingness to tackle difficult issues squarely.
His expressed anguish at the events following the Holocaust-denying statements by Williamson reflects the similar emotional pain felt by Jews
worldwide during this affair,” he said. “We reciprocate his words of appreciation for Jewish efforts to restore interreligious dialogue and will
continue to work with the Catholic Church to further strengthen mutual understanding and respect.”

L.A. 5758

As Rabbi AllenFreehling of University Synagogue in West Los Angeles and a busloadof bishops and rabbis left the Rome airport for their hotel near theVatican, one of the bishops read aloud a document that would soonspark a firestorm of controversy around the world: the Vatican’sMarch 16 statement on the Holocaust, released just hours before. Thegroup had just flown in from Israel, where they had spent a weekworshiping together, learning about each other’s histories, andbeginning to understand, as only true friends can, what the otherbelieves.

It is in this context that the contingent — aninterfaith pilgrimage of 16 rabbis and bishops from across the UnitedStates — heard “We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,” a documentof repentance that much of the Jewish community has repudiated asweak at best, a historical cover-up at worst.

“We were able to address the document in a fairlyhonest and respectful way because of the bonds that had developed,”says Stephen Blaire, auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of LosAngeles.

The group met with the document’s authors, who”responded very openly,” says Freehling. “This was not apoint-counterpoint meeting, but one in which there was truly anexploration of ideas, and I think the authors were as interested inour reaction as we were in some of the explanations as to why thingstook the form they did.”

No new information came out of the meeting, saysFreehling, and the tenor remained diplomatic: “Don’t forget where wewere sitting.”

On the last day of the pilgrimage, the Americansattended the pope’s general audience, and, later, Pope John Paul IIrequested to personally greet the group.

The pope’s interest in the interfaith journeyisn’t surprising, given his record of pro-Jewish activity.

Even the document’s harshest critics are quick topoint out that Pope John Paul II has been, by far, the most favorablefor Jews in the papacy’s history.

“We’re at a time in the relationship between theworld Jewish community and the Vatican under Pope John Paul II whenunprecedented milestones have been achieved,” says the SimonWiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier, who calls the document “mostunfortunate.” He points out that the pope is the first to visit aconcentration camp, to visit a synagogue and, quite significantly, tocome to terms with the State of Israel.

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, who called thedocument a show of “moral cowardice,” says that the pope’s record”just compounds my disappointment at the timidity of thestatement.”

He says that if the document is meant as arepentance, as the Vatican has said, it has failed. “They talk aboutteshuvah[repentance], but teshuvah requires confessing all sins and repentingfor them, not bobbing and weaving politically and theologically sothat you come out looking cleaner than, in fact, you were andare.”

Jewish expectations were much higher, especiallysince the document took 11 years to produce, says Elaine Albert,director of Israel and world Jewry affairs for the Jewish CommunityRelations Council.

“We’re very sad, after all these years of workingon this document, that these 14 pages actually do less and say lessand assume less responsibility than the current pope has done in lessformal documents and speeches.”

Rabbi Hier points out that the document praisesPope Pius XII for his actions in rescuing Jews in 1944 — when mostof Europe’s Jews were already dead and it was clear the Nazis wouldlose the war.

“The critical question is why, when it could havemade a difference in 1939 through 1942, did Pius XII sit on thethrone of St. Peter in stony silence,” Rabbi Hier asks.

But Rabbi Gary Greenebaum, Western regionaldirector of the American Jewish Committee, also a critic of thedocument, says that the treatment of Pius XII has to be understood”in terms of the infallibility of the pope. For one pope to condemnanother pope is unheard of. That doesn’t excuse it, but it explainsit.”

Greenebaum is also troubled by the distinctiondrawn “between Christian hatred of Jews, which the document termsanti-Judaism, and Nazi hatred of Jews, which it terms anti-Semitism.It wants to see the two as unrelated.”

But, Greenebaum says, “virtually every person whohelped manufacture the Final Solution was a baptizedChristian.”

Freehling argues that the document must beunderstood in the context in which it was produced — not as anapology to Jews but as a teaching tool for Catholics around the worldwho know little or nothing about the Holocaust.

“When you think about the route the documenttraveled in the Vatican before it ever saw the light of day,” hesays, “I think it’s very understandable why it came out in the formit did.”

Rabbi Harold Schulweis of Valley Beth Shalom saysthat this is a classic example of what Abba Eban calls the Jews’inability to “take yes for an answer.”

“In terms of moral statesmanship, this should begreeted with a tremendous amount of satisfaction,” Schulweis says. Torebuff it, he warned, might “discourage the church in its right pathtoward deeper commitment to its own agonizing reappraisal of itspast.”

On the last day of the interfaith pilgrimage,Pope John Paul II requested to personally greet the American bishopsand rabbis, including Rabbi Allen Freehling, above.

L.A. 5758 Briefs

Shabbat, Up Close andPersonal

Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks has found away to bring Shabbat home — literally. Through the Reformcongregation’s Shabbat Bayit program (“Shabbat House”), 30 membersled Friday night services in private homes last month for 195families.

“It brings things down to an up-close-and-personallevel,” said Joan Davidson, a Spanish teacher who conducted KabbalatShabbat services and led a discussion on prayer in the host family’sliving room. Dessert and schmoozing, of course, followed the informalservices.

Davidson said it was a good chance to get to knowher neighbors, and what she enjoyed most was “seeing the childrenparticipate.”

For information on setting up this program in yoursynagogue, contact Dori Greenbaum at Temple Adat Elohim, 2420 E.Hillcrest Drive, Thousand Oaks. (805) 497-7101.


Synagogue Programming That Works

The results are in: Investing time, money andpersonnel into synagogue programming renews members’ commitment andpassion and strengthens the institution.

Those are the conclusions of a Brandies Universitystudy of the Koret Synagogue Initiative, a four-year, $657,000program of the Koret Foundation, a charitable trust in SanFrancisco.

The initiative hired program directors andprovided resources for new educational, social, religious andcultural programming to four Bay Area synagogues. Membership went up,and 18,000 people participated in offerings such as meditationclasses, preschooler/parent programs and social actionprojects.

The report concludes that the Koret model”demonstrates that synagogues can play a critical role inrevitalizing Jewish life in America.”

Meanwhile, the Koret Synagogue Initiative has beenextended another three years, and the foundation hopes its projectwill encourage other federations and foundations across
the countryto support local synagogue programming.

For the complete report or more information,contact the Koret Foundation, 33 New Montgomery Street, Suite 1090,San Francisco, CA 94105; (415) 882-7740. —Julie Gruenbaum Fax