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November 11, 2011

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 11, 2011 PAGE 15A Challenges facing the Vatican's Jewish point man By Noam E. Marans NEW YORK (JTA)--Cardi- hal Kurt Koch, the Vatican's key representative to Jews, is making his first visit to New York, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. The cardinal, appointed president of the Vatican's Commission for Religious Re- lations with the Jews in 2010, has an opportunity, together with Jewish leaders, to reflect on the state of Catholic-Jewish relations and aspirations for the future. While in New York, Car- dinal Koch will meet with, among others, the Interna- tional Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, or IJCIC. This coalition of Jewish organizations, recog- nized by the Vatican as the official consultative Jewish body for the advancement of Catholic-Jewish relations, was created in the aftermath of Nostra Aetate. That docu- ment of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II, 1962- 1965) changed the course of Catholic-Jewish history with its revolutionary statements rejecting the deicide charge against the Jews, decrying anti-Semitism and affirming the validity of God's ongoing covenant with the Jewish people. In the post-Shoah era, the Church had begun to come to terms with its role in facilitating anti-Jewish animus that created a climate receptive to the horrors of the Holocaust. American Jewish leaders played a critical role in usher- ing in these advances. With the destruction of European Jewry, the United States be- came the location where the largest number of Jews and Catholics lived side by side, with the added benefit of America's ethos of religious freedom. The U.S. Confer- ence of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB, led in expanding the vision of Nostra Aetate with detailed directions to clergy for its implementation. One of the Critical pre- Nostra Aetate meetings took place at the American Jewish Committee in New York on March 31, 1963. The Jewish Theological Seminary's Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, brought into the Vatican II process by his student, AJC's Rabbi Marc Tanenbaum, met with Cardinal Augustin Bea, the Vatican's senior ecumeni- cal officer. Heschel's impact on the final NostraAetate text is evident when one reads his memorandum, "On Improv- ing Catholic-Jewish Rela- tions," that was presented to Cardinal Bea and his Vatican colleagues. But it was Pope John Paul II, with his bold pronounce- ments and dramatic actions, who took Catholic-Jewish relations to the next level-- the first visit by a pope to a synagogue, a pilgrimage to Auschwitz on bended knee, and a state visit to Israel where the pope placed his kvittel (prayer) in a crevice of the Western Wall. Pope Benedict XVI has followed in John Paul's path, indicating clearly that his predecessor's papacy was not to be the dramatic exception in Catholic-Jewish relations but rather the paradigm to be emulated. Perhaps this was made most clear when Benedict earlier this year published his second volume on the life of Jesus in which he elucidates that there is no basis in Scripture for the deicide charge. True, there have been recent bumps in Catholic- Jewish relations, including: Benedict's lifting the excom- munication of the Society of Saint Pius X, among them the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson; allowing Pope Pius XII's beatification process to continue before the release of all the archives related to his Holocaust-era actions; and expanding the use of the Latin Mass that in- cludes a controversial Easter- time prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Notwithstanding their headline-grabbing na- ture, these missteps should not prevent us from seeing the positive trajectory that Benedict has sustained and expanded, most notably with his state visit to Israel and his warm words at the Rome synagogue. Cardinal Koch has an op- portunity to send a message of continuity and progress as he arrives in New York, where 4 in 10 British Jewish students experienced or witnessed anti Semitism By Alex Weisler ...... dents who are more engaged LONDON (JTA)--More than four out of every 10 • Jewish students at British uni- versities reported witnessing or experiencing anti-Semitic incidents between October 2010 and thisMarch. - But only two in 10 said they were concerned about campus anti-Semitism. Those were two of the find- ings in a newly released survey of Jewish students in Britain that showed respondents generally comfortable with their religious identity, and relatively unconcerned about anti-Semitism and anti-Israel • activity on campus. The National Jewish Stu- dent Survey, conducted by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research and released in September, is the first-ever study examining Jewish campus life in Britain. It was commissioned by the Pears Foundation and the Union of Jewish Students, the umbrella group that oversees Jewish societies at more than 100 British universities--es- sentially the British equiva- lent of Hillel houses. The survey, which drew more than 900 respondents from nearly 100 institutions and was conducted in Febru- ary and March, provides a comprehensive look at the demographics of the so-called millennial generation, young people who came of age in a Britain focused on Jewish con- tinuity and youth involvement to an unprecedented degree. Charlotte Karp, the Union of Jewish Students' com- munications director, said the findings are proof that British Jewry's two decades of investment in youth groups and Jewish student societies on campus "is paying excellent dividends." "By placing trust and in- vestment in students, we are developing the present and future leadership of Anglo Jewry," Karp said. as teens are more likely to stay • engaged at university--does not detract from their survey's significance. "There was no sensational headline from the research," • she said. "It's just a very rich portrait of who Jewish stu- dents on campus are, what they are doing and what is important to them." Manchester Jewish Society Jewish students at the University of Manchester are performing as part of the campus's Israel Awareness Week. Manchester is one of the U.K. campuses with the highest number of Jewish students. The survey found that the concerns of Jewish students generally matched those of non-Jewish students-- grades, jobs after graduation and "relationship issues ' occupied the top three spots. In questions on Jewish con- cerns, 38 percent of respon- dents said they were "very" or "fairly worried" about campus anti-Israel sentiment, and 21 percent reported concerns about campus anti-Semitism. Forty-two percent reported witnessing or experiencingan anti-Semiticincidentbetween October 2010 and the time of the survey. "If the community did not make an effort to combat these things, the situation could be farworse," Karp said. "The fact that it is not a major concern is actually a credit to the longstanding efforts of UJS and other communal bod- ies that deal with these issues and shows they are managing the situation very well." Amy Philip, deputy director of the Pears Foundation, said it's important not to look just at the anti-Semitic experi- ences but about the "wider experience of students and the positive ways in which they are relating to their Jewish identity." The survey found that most Jewish students at British universities do not hide their religion, with 59 percent re- porting being "always open" and 39 percent "sometimes open" about it. Jonathan Boyd, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, said the survey paints a portrait of an "engaged and largely quite committed generation" of young British Jews--even if their Jewish identity isn't breaking the mold. "They don't come across as a group that's particularly playful or creative with their Jewish identity," he said. "We found a generation of people that are replicating the Jew- ishness they were brought up "with rather than changing it." While American Jewish surveys of Jewish life appear to be going more local--the decennial National Jewish Population Survey has been discontinued--Philip said that national research of this sort is valuable to Brit- ish Jewry. "For those who are making decisions about where to put their resources on campus, this is providing some really useful information so they can base their strategies on data from the survey," she said. Philip said the unsurprising nature of some of the find- ings--for example, that stu- New YorkArchbishop Timothy Dolan, who also is president of the USCCB, is a consistent and vocal champion of Catholic- Jewish relations. But the cardinal also has assumed his role at a time of great transition for the Catholic Church. Develop- ments not necessarily related to Catholic-Jewish relations may have a significant impact on their future evolution. Growing conservatism in Catholic ideology could cast a regressive shadow on the liberalism inherent in the progressive aftermath of Nostra Aetate. Demographic changes may diminish the positive emphasis on the Catholic-Jewish relationship as the numbers of adherents continue to grow in Africa and South America, home to far fewer Jews than in North America. The Church may come under increasing in- ternal pressure to demonize and isolate Israel despite its six-decade pursuit of peace. Ultimately, Church lead- ers like Cardinal Koch will be challenged to sustain the energy needed to educate a new generation of Catholic leadership that may be less familiar with or perhaps takes for granted the achievements ofNostra Aetate. / The history of the past 55 years gives us reason to "be optimistic even as we know that our work is not done. The Jewish community should look forward to expanding its partnership with Cardinal Koch as we welcome him warmly to New York and the United States. Rabbi Noam E. Marans is the American Jewish Commit- tee's director of lnterreligious and Intergroup Relations. 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