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June 6, 2014

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 6, 2014 Philip Roth, onetime 'enfant terrible,' gets seminary honor Ellen Dubin Photography Philip Roth receives an honorary doctorate at the Jewish Theological Semi- nary's commencement in New York on May 22, 2014. By Beth Kissileff (JTA)--"What is being done to silence this man?" an American rabbi asked in a 1963 letter to the Anti- Defamation League. He was talking about the novelist Philip Roth, whose early nov- els and short stories cast his fellow American Jews in what some considered a none-too- flattering light. Fast-forward halfa century. On Thursday, the writer whose works were once denounced as profane was honored by one of American Jewry's sacred citadels: The Jewish Theological Semi- nary, Conservative Juda- ism's flagship educational institution, awarded Roth an honorary doctorate at its commencement ceremony. "From enfant terrible to elder statesman. Time heals all wounds," Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles remarked to JTA via email. Early in his career, Roth drew outrage with sometimes stinging depictions of Jewish life, as well as his graphic portrayal in his 1969 novel "Portnoy's Complaint" of the protagonist's sexual desires. Some worried that his work would endanger American Jews, providing fodder for anti-Semites. In one notorious incident, Roth was shaken by a hostile reception he received at a 1962 literary symposium at New York's Yeshiva University. Recalling being shouted at by hostile students after the event, Roth vowed to "never write about Jews again"--a promise, of course, that he did not keep. "There is a certain amount of poetic justice, an aestheti- cally satisfying irony, in Philip Roth's beginning his career with a brouhaha at Yeshiva University and ending it with an honorary doctorate from the Jewish Theological Semi- nary--an honor perhaps more significant than the Nobel Prize that eludes him," Mi- chael Kramer, associate pro- fessor of literature at Israel's Bar-Ilan University, wrote in an email. "Would Roth himself have imagined such a plot? His endings tend to the tragic." Now the 81-year-old Roth's own career is itself at an end. In 2012, Roth announced that he would not be writing more books. Earlier this month, he declared after a reading at New York's 92nd Street Y that he was done with public appearances. "This was absolutely the last appearance I will make on any public stage, anywhere," said Roth, although last Wednesday news broke that he will appear as an interview guest on Come@ Central's "Colbert Report" in July. Roth, in his books, poked fun at the wrath he incurred from some in the Jewish com: munity. One of his recurring protagonists, Nathan Zucker- man, is a novelist whose own writings have similarly upset many Jews. But after decades as one of America's leading literary lights, the anger Roth once evoked has been eclipsed by acclaim. In a phone interview, the seminary's chancellor, Arnold Eisen, a sociologist and the only non-rabbi to lead JTS since World War II, called Roth the "greatest sociolo- gist on American Jewish life, without doubt." Eisen said that in his previous job at Stanford University, he frequently assigned Roth's books to students in his classes on Roth on page 15A Making sense of Pope Francis's whirlwind Mideast trip By Alex Traiman After two intense days of re- ligious ceremonies in Bethle- hem and Jerusalem, meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, unscheduled photo opportunities, and debilitat- ing traffic arrangements, Is- raelis and interfaith relations experts are trying to attach the appropriate symbolism to Pope Francis's visit to the region. Nearly every stop made by the pontiff was subjected to simultaneous scrutiny and praise. While long-term tensions between the Jew- ish people and the Catholic Church were made apparent by the trip, some experts are acknowledging a thaw in Israel-Vatican relations. "The Jewish people and the Catholic Church in recent years have found that their 40 years of dialogue have paid off and friendly relationships have resulted," said Betty Eh- renberg--executive director of the North American branch of the World Jewish Congress and chairperson of the Inter- national Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, an umbrella organization rep- resenting prominent Jewish organizations in discussions with leaders of other faiths. Ehrenberg, who attended a meeting between the pope and Israeli President Shimon Peres, told that there is "a friendship between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people that should be nurtured" and that there "certainly was a warmth to this visit, and you can't deny that." "We have to realize that we have problems in common, and we have to work together on these problems," she said. Also important, in Eh- renberg's estimation, is the message that the visit sends to Middle East Christians who find themselves under the constant threat of attack. "There has been very little outcry [on Christian suffer- ing] by the United Nations; there has been very little out- cry by other international or- ganizations," said Ehrenberg. "We haven't heard enough of an outcry, not from the Catho- Friedman & Friedman Excellence in Real Estate Jeffrey and Barbara Friedman 407-222-6059 - Direct One Team. Twice the Knowledge, Service and Experience Serving the Central Florida Jewish Community for over 12 years lic Church and not from any of the Christian denominations. In fact, it has been the Jewish people that have been decry- ing this phenomenon." But by visiting the Middle East, the pope "has shown that he is present and that he cares, and gives Christians here in the region strength," Ehrenberg said. "Hopefully we can work together with the Catholic Church to help ensure reli- gious freedoms for everyone around the world, and for protection," she said. Pope Francis planted roots for improved interfaith re- lations even before being elected pontiff, said Giuseppe Platania, founder of Italy's Israel Allies Caucus, an alli- ance that fosters cooperation and dialogue between the Italian Senate and the Israeli Knesset. "He is a friend of the Jewish people, probably more than others before him," Platania told "He appears to be very open to dialogue with the Jewish community. Back in Argentina, the pope had a strong relationship with the Jewish community. So he grew up with a strong, positive relationship with the Jewish community from before he became pope." Platania said Francis made a "significant" symbolic ges- ture during his first week as pope by making a phone call to the chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Rome. "When you become a leader of over a billion people, what you do carries tremendous weight," he said. Appropriately, then, every stop by Pope Francis on his Israel trip--planned and unplanned--was scrutinized for its symbolism. "His itinerary is very sig- nificant," Platania said."What he goes to visit first was very well thought-out. The actual order of the people he sees, and shakes hands with, and the sites he visits, is very significant." The pope referred to Pales- tinian Authority-controlled territory as the "Palestinian State," a move that contra- dicts the U.N. status of the Palestinian Authority as a "non-member observer state." Francis also landed first in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, a day before his official state welcome by Israel at Ben- Gurion InternationalAirport. According to Platania, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 On May 26, Pope Francis seen with Israeli President Shi- mon Peres at a ceremony held at the president's residence in Jerusalem. Francis was not the first pope to visit Palestinian-controlled territory before setting foot in fully sovereign Jewish ter- ritory, and the order of the pope's itinerary may have had more to do with religion than politics. The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus. "Maybe there is a stronger Christian connection to start [the trip] by going to Beth- lehem than by going to the Kotel," Platania said. Ehrenberg said there is nothing new about the Vati- can's policy toward Palestin- ian statehood. "The Vatican recognized a Palestinian state many years ago already," she said. "So anyone surprised by this doesn't remember when this first happened in the '80s." The pope then surprised many by making an unsched- uled prayer stop at concrete sections of a wall separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem, Pope on page 15A Brussels shooting victims leave By Dave Bender The Algemeiner behind two teen daughters TEL AVIV--Miriam and Emmanuel Riva were "the cream of the crop," grieving family and friends said of the 50-year-old couple, slain in May 24's shooting attack at the Jewish Museum in Brus- sels, Belgium. Two employees of the center were also killed, Israel Radio said. The couple, who lived in Tel Aviv and leave behind a 15 - and a 17-year-old daughter, were Israeli Foreign Ministry em- ployees for the last four years, and were due to return to Israel on May 29, friends said. "Up until two years ago, Emmanuel was the vice- consul in Berlin; they were cultured people of character who loved Israel," said Josia Porat, Emmanuel's cousin's wife. As horrified family mem- bers in Israel and the United States were notified, relatives and school officials prepared to look after the daughters, Porat told Israeli daily Ma'ariv. For the moment, "the fam- ily has decided not to tell Em- manuel's father, who is over 90 years old, of the murders," the Belgian-born Porat said. "The anti-Semitism there is shocking," she said. "It's not what it once was." Meanwhile, in Brussels, local police and officials speculated that "everything is possible," as to the attacker's motives. "We know that the location, the Jewish Museum in Brus- sels, makes one think of it being an anti-Semitic attack, but we do not have enough to confirm this is the case," a state Prosecutor's Office spokesman said. Police have launched a manhunt for the gunman, and, earlier, released an individual initially detained immediately after the shoot- ings, according to Israel's Walla news site. "The entire Jewish commu- nity is in shock," in the wake of the killings, said one Jewish community leader. Another told Israel Army Radio that Belgium's 45,000 Jews "were in a state of panic." "We have decided to imple- ment deterrent measures, said Belgian Interior Minister Joelle Milquet, including beef- ing up the police presence in areas of Jewish concentration. "This is the firstanti-Jewish attack in Brussels since World War II," said Dr. Maurice Sos- nowski, the head of the Jew- ish community of Belgium. "The Jewish community is in good standing with everyone, even the Muslim community," another Jewish official told Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. Senior Israeli officials were in contact with Belgian counterparts, and President Shimon Peres called on Euro- pean governments to combat anti-Semitism. "This act of murder is the result of constant incite- ment against Jews and their state," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement sent to reporters. "I urge all the leaders of Europe--do not take anti- Semitic incidents lightly," Peres said in a statement. "Each incident calls for a powerful response. European leaders must wage war against anti-Semitism, as it rears its head in many European countries," Peres said. In related news, two un- known assailants badly hurt two Jews in Paris on Satur- day night, May 24, as they left a synagogue. French police are looking for the culprits in the attack, which took place several hours after the Brus- sels killings. It is unclear at this stage if there was a direct connection between the two attacks.