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February 15, 2013
 

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PAGE 18A Bumps From page 1A Benedict would step down on Feb. 28. "There were bumps in the road during this papacy," Anti-Defamation Leagu e National Director Abraham Foxman said in a state- ment. "But he listened to our concerns and tried to address them, which shows how close our two commu- nities have become in the last half century and how much more work we need to do together to help repair a broken world." The German-born Bene- dict;85, is the first pope to re- sign since the 15th century. He announced his decision at a meeting of cardinals at the Vatican. "In today's world," he de- clared in Latin, "subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapac- ity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me." The pope's brother told the German news agency DPA that Benedict had been weighing the decision for months. Still, his resigna- tion came as a shock. "There were moments of divergence, inevitable be- cause of the essential and irreconcilable differences be- tween the two worlds," said Riccardo DiSegni, the chief rabbi of Rome. "But there was always a positive will to compare and construct." Under Benedict's lead: ership, the Vatican "has been a clear voice against racism and anti-Semitism and a clear voice for peace," Israeli President Shimon Peres said in a statement. "Relations between Israel and the Vatican are the best they have ever been, and the positive dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people is a testament to his belief in dialogue and cooperation." Less than two weeks ear- lier, in fact, Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Aya- Ion, had said that after years of fitful negotiations, Israel and the Vatican were "on the verge" of resolving out- standing bilateral issues and finalizing the Fundamental Agreement governing rela- tions between the two states. Benedict was elected pontiff in April 2005 fol- lowing the death of Polish- born Pope John Paul II. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he had been a close friend and adviser to the charis- matic John Paul II, who had made fostering better relations with the Jews a cornerstone of his nearly 27-year papacy. "For Jews and Israel, Bene- dict's papacy has meant a consolidation and confirma- tion of the developments and achievements during John Paul II's papacy," Rabbi David Rosen, the American Jewish Committee's international director of interreligious affairs, told JTA. Benedict's own personal history also helped shape this commitment. Born in Bavaria, he grew up in an anti-Nazi Catholic family but, like all teenagers, was obligated to join the Hitler Youth organization and was conscripted into the Ger- man army. Eventually he deserted. As pope, Benedict met fre- quently with Jewish groups and visited synagogues in several countries. His first trip abroadas the pontiff was to his native Germany, where he made it a point to visit the synagogue in Cologne and is- sued a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism and "the insane racist ideology" that led to the Holocaust. The visit marked only the second time a pope had visited a synagogue. Benedict later visited synagogues in Rome and New York. He also confronted his troubled past in Poland in 2006 when he visited Auschwitz and, declaring himself "a son of Germany," prayed for victims of the Holocaust, as well as on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009 when he visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and met with Holocaust survivors. As a young theologian in the 1960s, Benedict attended the Second Vatican Council, which aimed to liberalize the Church. In 1965, the council promulgated the Nostra Aetate declaration that opened the way to Catholic-Jewish dialogue. Benedict repeatedly reaf- firmed commitment to Nos- tra Aetate's teachings. Still, several issues that emerged during his tenure called that commitment into ques- tion, casting a shadow over Catholic-Jewish relations. These included the revival of-a pre-Vatican II Good Fri- day Latin prayer that called for the conversion of Jews, moving the Holocaust-era Pope Pius XII one step closer to sainthood and reaching HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 15, 2013 out to a breakaway ultra- traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X, in an effort to bring it back into the mainstream Catholic fold. In doing so, Benedict revoked the excommunication of four of the movement's bishops, one of whom turned out to be a Holocaust denier. Vatican officials said a conclave of cardinals will be convened in March to elect a new pope. But there is no clear indication as to who might be picked, or from what country or continent he might come. Vatican observers said that since all the cardinals eligible to vote for a new pope had been appointed either, by John Paul II or Benedict, whoever is elected would probably follow similar overall policies. Like John Paul II, Benedict is a doctrinal conservative, staunchly opposed to fe- male priests, gay marriage, abortion, birth control and divorce. "History wilt view Bene- dict as the last of the tra- ditional European pontiffs, the last pope who personally experienced World War II and the Holocaust, and one of the last Catholic leaders to have participated in the historic Second Vatican Council," said Rabbi James Rudin, the AJC's senior interreligious adviser, who first met Ratz- inger in the 19"/0s. The next pope will have to deal with fallout from scandals that tainted Bene- dict's reign, from continuing accusations of sex abuse by priests to a security breach that saw Benedict's butler leaking the pope's private pa- pers to a reporter. It remains to be seen, however, whether fostering Jewish-Catholic relations will receive less attention under a younger and possibly non-European pope without the historic memory of the Holocaust and Vatican II. "Doctrinally this will never happen, but in terms of visibility and engagement that may happen if he is from a place where there is no sig- nificant Jewish community present today or in the very recent past," Rosen said. Rosen added, however, a non-European pope might be less encumbered by the burdens of the past. "Past tragedy and past failure are not the best basis for a long-term future relationship," Rosen said. "This has to be based upon nurturing the sense of com- mon patrimony, roots. Some African cardinals are better in this regard than many European ones." Trip From page IA speech in Cairo and a stop in Saudi Arabia. As much as anything else, the spring trip may be about reaching out to Israelis. "I'm excited that Presi- dent Obama is coming this spring to reaffirm the deep ties between Israel and the United States," Dan Shapiro: the U.S. ambassador to Israel, said in a message ifi Hebrew on Twitter. Netanyahu may have his own reasons for welcoming such a visit now. For one, a U.S. president on Israeli soil sends an unmistakable mes- sage to Israel's enemies that America stands with Israel. It also helps Netanyahu po- litically. Netanyahu emerged weakened from Israel's Jan. 22 elections, and aides have told the Israeli media that they believe voters stayed away from the prime minister over concerns about his rapport with Obama. The two leader have had something of a fraught re- lationship. There have been philosophical differences about Israel's settlement enterprise and the Palestin- ians, disagreements about the red line for Iran's nuclear program and perceived snubs on both sides. During a March 2010 White House meeting, Netanyahu was denied a photo opportu- nity with the president and Obama interrupted their meeting to eat dinner. Last year, Netanyahu gave an en- thusiastic reception to Obama rival Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign. But the recent elections in both the United States and Israel could mark a turning point. In recent days, Netanyahu has indicated that he wants to establish a coalition gov- ernment that tends more to the center than his last government. He also has identified diplomacy with the Palestinians as one of his top priorities. On the other side of the Atlantic, Obama's choice for secretary of state, John Kerry, said in his Senate confirma- tion hearing that preventing Iran from acquiringa nuclear weapon and advancing Israeli- Palestinian peace would be his twin priorities in the job. Kerry has since announced his own plans to visit Israel next month, and among his first calls in his new job were conversations with Netanya- hu and Palestinian Authority President Mahoud Abbas. "It's a new beginning: Obama can have a serious discussion with the Israeli prime minister at a time he's heading a new government," said Dennis Ross, a counsel at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who was Obama's top Middle East ad- viser until a year ago. "The president is interested in connectingwith the Israeli public. It allows him to show he cares about the peace is- sues, but allows him to do so while discussing all the issues, including Iran, Syria and Egypt." Aaron David Miller, a for- mer U.S. negotiator who now is vice president of the Wilson International Center for Scholars, says both Obama and Netanyahu are being driven to a rapprochement by exigency: Netanyahu by his weakened political position and Obama by preserving his legacy. "One guy is caught in cir- cumstances which require improvement, and the other guy knows if he wants to get anywhere he's going to have to figure out if he can work with Bibi," Miller said, using Netanyahu's nickname. Debra DeLee, the presi- dent of Americans for Peace Now, said in a statement that Obama's visit will give him an "opportunity to directly address the people of Israel and lay out a compassionate, pragmatic vision for a future Israel that enjoys security and peace, and that it is a respected member ofthecom- munity of nations." But Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, said if Obama is going simply to advance a peace process that many Israelis and U.S. lawmakers believe is stuck be- cause of Arab intransigence, he's running a fool's errand. It would be more useful, she said, for him to use his Israel trip to discuss strategies at a time of Middle Eastern turmoil. "If he's president of the United States, he's going to talk about Iran and Hezbol- lah and Syria," Pletka said. "If he's the president of Barack Obama's dream house, he'll talk about the peace process." Laugh From page IA putting on funny costumes, enjoying bobbing for can- died apples at the synagogue carnival and seeing the rabbi dressed as a superhero evokes one kind of joy. For most grown-ups, joy and laughter may be an expression of a Commercial  Malntenanee Inc. Commercial, Office, Residential Complete lawn & Shrub Maintenance Ucemed Professional/Reasonable/Free Estimate :., We are gour source for: Is Brochures Letterheod8 EnvelolDe8 - Egueir, sms Cards F'ro-ams F1uer8 Post Cards - Fonne Digital FhhotoolDt . LaDel8 Direct UcJ  407.767.7110 www. eeintg.net 5 North Street ", gWood, FL 32750 Trv; :I  .F c]: 18% ,x.- _, _ 1:2, - different kind. While we ap- preciate the dark comedy of the Megillah, our laughter also is a collective sigh of relief in having averted near annihilation unscathed. The storyline of Purim, which this year falls on the evening of Feb. 23, is a dra- matic comedy of errors and grand gestures with over- the-top reactions, It is so different in content and style than nearly every other book of the Bible that scholars speculate about the verac- ity of the story altogether. Drunken parties, political posturing and sexual in- nuendos weave their way throughout the narrative. The Megillah begins with a raucous party hosted by King Achashveros, who demands that his wife, Vashti, appears (only! as commentators point out) in her crown. After refus- ing to appear naked, she is told to never appear before the king again. After his "wise" counselors offer advice, an edict is sent out across the ovinces demanding that all wives respect their husbands' every demand. Not sure what all the wives had to say about that! It is a story about reversals. The Megillah has Mordechai, the Jewish hero who refuses to bow down to Haman. The act of disobedience ignites the ire of Haman, the recently promoted chief adviser to the king. Haman, in turn, calls for the destruction of all Jewish people. Esther, who until this point has hidden her identity, then reveals that she also is a mem- ber of the doomed people and calls on Achashveros to pun- ish Haman.Achashveros does by bestowing all the raiments and honors thatwere reserved for Haman to Mordechai. Further, the very gallows that Haman had ordered to be built for the hanging of Mordechai are the ones on which Haman meets his end. Purim is a story of incon- gruencies. A people once despised and on the verge of destruction are told that they can defendtlmselves thanks to Esther's petitions to the king and suddenly become a force with which to be reck- oned. For pragmatic reasons, the text indicates that, "many of the people of the land be- came Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon fhem.'Averted disaster becomes an unusual catalyst for conversion. While grand gestures, plot reversals and a storyline that doesn't mesh quite right are elements that are employed by comedy writers and will evoke laughter, our general state of reverie on Purim is born from what the philosopher John Morreall observes about the evolution of laughter. Mor- reall believes that human laughter became a gesture of shared relief that a danger-" ous situation had passed. Laughter puts us into a state -of relaxation and can build bonds between us, As the cultural anthropolo- gist Mahadev Apte observes further, "Laughter occurs when people are comfortable with one another, when they feel open and free. And the more laughter [there is], the more bonding [occurs] within the group." ews have always used hu- mor as a coping mechanism for Jewish survival and as a common reference point to connect to other Jews. Jewish comedians knew this well. As a people who have been op- pressed for so long, we have always appreciated laughing at our., situation before oth- ers could. So this Purim, hold the childlike laughter of discover- ing new things (maybe some- one you didn't expect will give you mishloach manot; maybe you will surprise yourself at your generosity when you give a gift to the poor) and appreciate the narrative of the Purim story itself. But most important, experience the joy that comes from release, knowing that the Jewish people not only survives but continues to thrive. As you raise your glass at Purim, toast 1 chaim to life--and to a life filled with deep laughter.