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May 22, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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May 22, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 22, 2009 PAGE 5A i By RabbiAar0n D. Rubinger I want to wish us all a mazel tov on our upcoming anni- versary. I am referring to the upcoming fourth anniversary of our community minyan, which we have been holding at the Hebrew Day School every weekday at 7:45 a.m (on national holidays, at 9 a.m.). Now at this point I suspect maybe half of you are on the verge of stopping your read- ing of this column, since the subject of our community mmyan may not as yet be of great interest to you. Why do I say "asyet"? Well, you know the old saying "Nothing is certain exceptdeath and taxes." right? Yet. there is one more thing that I can add to those two certainties. I am also certain in the coming year, or in years that come after, there will be a time when many of you will want and need a minyan in order to say the Mourner's Kaddish. Even if you now feel that saying kaddish won't be im- portant to you because you are not "all that observant." let me gently suggest that none of us know how any loss will hit us. I can also tell you that saying kaddish for many individuals is less about fulfilling the commandment to say kad- dish and more about having a desire to show honor and love to a lost loved one. It gives a person something tangible and meaningful to do with his or her grief. Trust me on this one. I have been a rabbi for a long time now. Now. please, realize the reason we have the minyan is not primarily for the purpose of facilitating-the saying of kaddish. We have a minyan because that is whatwe as Jews are "commanded to do: to pray to God. not privately m our homes, which is allowed but not considered ideal, but, rather, as members of a community. Yet, for that individual who does wish to say kaddish for her loved one which can only be said as part of a minyan--having that minyan available matters a great deal. Even if prayer is "not your thing," fine. Then think of it, if you will, as a responsibility, a duty, that you have as a member of the Jewish community: to be there when others need your help, just as you hope others will be there when you need their help. Summer time is the most difficult time of the year to make a minyan, as so many of our regulars at minyan go out of town. So. I am asking you to make a pledge no, not a capital campaign pledge this time. but a pledge every bit as important--to attend minyan either once a week. or twice a month, or even once.a month. Make a pledge that you will do your duty to your people, enabling someone to sanctify God's name and affirm his or 'her faith in God at a time of great sorrow and pain. Make a pledge to do this act of holiness and goodness and know that the members of your people will realize that by your do- ing so you have a truly Jewish neshamah--a Jewish soul-- who sincerely cares about the feelings of others. Rabbi Aaron D. Rubinger is the senior rabbi of Congrega- tion Ohev Shalom in Orlando. The " By Abraham H. Foxman NEW YORK (JTA)--When his plane touched down at Ben Gurion International Airport, Pope Benedict XVI became only the second pope in the history of the Catholic Church to officially visit the State of Israel. Israeli, Jewish and Vatican leaders expressed high hopes for a smooth, visit that would enhance the Catholic-Jewish and Israel-Vatican relation- ships. Yet almost from the minute he got off the plane, Benedict's actions and words have been severely scrutinized, dissected and criticized from all sides. This extraordinary level of public and media scrutiny has led to a series of controversies, expressions of dismay and By Stuart Weinblatt POTOMAC, Md. (JTA)--The Jewish people have lost a true friend. Jack Kemp will be remem- bered for many things. He was a man of ideas, intellect and compassion who cared deeply about justice, fairness and compassion. He was also a principled man with the strength to practically single-handedly change the direction of an entire politi- c'al party. It is easy to forget, but Israel did not always enjoy the bipartisan support it has "today. The former New York congressman and vice-pres- idential candidate, who died two weeks ago at 73, overcame his party's tendency toward isolatiomsm and the inclina- tion among Republicans to write off the Jewish vote. At a young age, as a result of a friendship going back to his high school days in Los Angeles with the daughter of RabbiMax Nussbat/m of Los Angeles, he developed an appreciation for Judaism and the Jewish people. When he was elected to the Sharkansky From page 4A Pakistan may be opening one new front, Sudan's cooperation in the movement of arms from Iran to Gaza may be opening another, and Syria's nuclear efforts a third. Israel has been a hopeful outsider in both conflicts. In the pre-state and early state period some suspected it of becoming a Soviet satellite. failed expectations by some Israeli leaders. It must be recognized that Benedict is following in the footsteps of his predecessor. the beloved Pope John Paul II. whose groundbreaking pilgrimage in March 2000 hit all the right notes and cap- tured the hearts and minds of Jews and Catholics around the world. From the get-go it was always going to be unfair to measure Benedict's trip by John Paul's, especially since Benedict has stepped into a roiling political, religious and social climate that is vastly changed from the more hope- ful regional environment just nine years ago. It is not only the region that is different. The two popes have vastly different person- alities and public personas. Where the Polish-born John Paul IIwas a grandommuni- cator able to proj ect his charm and personal story to a wide audience. Benedict, a native of Germany, is a reserved theologian who conveys a professorial tone. Beyond style, there are the words themselves. In this there is room for debate. Prominent officials have sharply criticized Benedict's much-anticipated speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for failing to live up to expectations. When Pope John Paul II visited Yad Vashem he refer- enced tl~eNazis by name, con- demned the murder of mil- lions of victims and mourned the loss of his Jewish friends. He met at length with 30 Pol- ish Jewish survivors. By contrast. Benedict failed to mention Nazis or Germany, as well as his own personal his- tory in Germany during the war. He did not use the word murder and ignored the issue* of Christian responsibility for the Holocaust. A historic opportunity was squandered. Yet a close examination of Benedict's text and actions shows that he did deliver an appropriate speech focusing on the concepts of remem- brance. He also met briefly with Holocaust survivors. It must be noted also that in recent months. Benedict has made strong statements repudiating Holocaust denial. And in the past, Benedict has talked about his personal experiences as a member of HitlerYouth and the Germany Army. U.S. Congress in 1970. Jack became an outspoken leader of the movement for Soviet Jewry. His wife, Joanne. was a partner in the struggle and was at the vanguard of organiz- ing congressional spouses on behalf of Soviet Jewry. Against" the wishes of party leaders, Jack pushed on this issue and pointed out to Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and others how important it was to embrace the cause of freedom for Soviet Jewry. If all Jack did was to help lib- erate the Jews behind the Iron Curtain. we could say dayenu, itwould have been enough. But in addition to his insistence that freedom for Soviet Jews be at the centerpiece of American foreign policy and its relations with the Soviet Union. he also was a passionate lover of Israel who believed in the Zionist principles and in working to ensure its security. It is no exaggeration to say that as a result of his work, the Republican Party was receptive to issues important to the Jewish community. He allowed Jews to feel comfort- able and welcomed in the GOP, thus strengthening the commune's influence--Jew- ish support could no longer be taken for granted by the Democratic Party. I first met Jack at a forum sponsoredbyagroup interested in working to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestin- ians. The approach struck me as being somewhat naive, so I told a classic Jewish story to il- lustrate my concern. The story was of a man who approached his rabbi and saying he had a solution to the p.roblem of poverty in their village. The man said to the rabbi, "All we need is to get all of the wealthy people in town to give their money to the poor. and we will be able to take care of the problem.' A year later the rabbi asked how his project was coming along. "I'm halfway there," the man responded. "I have gotten all of the poor people to agree to .accept the money. Now all I need to do is get the wealthy people to agree to give away their portion." Jack laughed and loved the story. He approached me a~ter the meeting and said he wanted to get together. He took the initiative and surprised me a few days later by calling and asking if we could get together. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship and meaningful relationship that ended all too soon. One Saturday morning last fall he attended services; his grandson had been invited to attend a bar. mitzvah at my synagogue. I invited him to come to the bimah and read in English the traditional prayer for our country. Before he began to read the prayer, he stood at the podium and said, "Some of you in the. congregation might be wondering what I am doing up here." He paused and said. "I am Rabbi Weinblatt's Shab- bos goy." Jack was much more that that. He was a friend. He was a righteous gentile. Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt is the spiritual leader at Con- gregation B'nai Tzedek in Potomac, Aid. Then it emerged as an anti- Soviet outpost in the Middle East. This time it is closer to the center of the conflict, but is still not at the center. It manages its own problems with Palestinians, Lebanese, and maybe Iran. without being certain of its support by the United States. American Jews are more plugged in than in the 1950s or 1960s. but they are not in Israel's pocket. Israeli "prime ministers know they are not equal partners with the White House. Israel also illustrates the concern of coalition partners for the leader's steadfastness. The United States had to prop up Germans concerned about their vulnerability. JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" was only one of numerous overt demon- strations of support by U.S. presidents, vice "presidents, secretaries of state and defense, and junketing legislators. To- day's equivalents are assurance of Israel's security by American presidents and others, seldom enough for Israelis worried about other comments that press them to make concessions for the sake of the coalition. Ira Sharkansky is profes- sor emeritus, Department. of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Therefore, it would do us well to keep things in perspec- tive and recognize what this pope has said and done. By coming to Israel at this time, the 82-year-old pontiff is solidifying the Vatican's formal relationship with the State of Israel. launched when a historic diplomatic agree- ment was signed in 1993. His trip demonstrates the Church's commitment to the security and survival of Israel as a Jewish state. Benedict is also establish- ing a track record for futUre popes. No longer will Pope John Paul's journey be able to be portrayed as an aberration or a personal mission. Indeed, Benedict's trip will institu- tionalize that every pope visit Israel and commit the billion- member Roman Catholic Church to the importance of Israel as the Jewish state. Benedict's voyage also demonstrates the continuity of the Church's commitment to enhance relations with the Jewish people. As Car- dinal Joseph Ratzinger, he was Pope John Paul's chief theologian and, therefore, the many positive improvements in Jewish-Catholic relations over the past three decades were done in consultation with him. To be sure, there are a series of outstanding serious issues challenging the Vatican- Jewish dialogue, including the recent troubling regres- sions in Catholic theology and liturgy about Judaism. Israel and the Vatican also have complicated property and tax issues to resolve. However. the focus on this trip should be in recognizing the positive contributions of the current pope. Benedict has pledged to keep strengthening Catholic-Jewish relations and reaffirmed the Church's unqualified repudiation of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. He has taught that Christians should gain a new respect for the Jewish inter- pretation of the Old Testa- ment. And he has asserted that God's Covenant and promises to the people of Israel are alive and irrevocable, further demonstrating his belief that the Jewish people "are beloved brothers and sisters." While we believe that Jews must remember and honor the past, we cannot change it. What we can do is create a future where Catholics and Jews deepen and expand our dialogue and work together with mutual respect and un- derstanding in the interests of tikkun olam. Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti- Defamation League. A Holo- caust survivor, he was saved by his Polish Catholic nanny who baptized him and raised him as a Catholic until his parents returned after the war. ATd THAT ,TS AtV't't MITIC RHETORtC rr5 SUPPO2T Of:,