Rebecca Spilke walked slowly to the lectern at Sutton Place Synagogue. Taking a deep breath, the petite, brown-haired 26-year-old spoke of her love for Benjamin Blutstein.
"I was almost excited to come here; I was expecting to see Ben," she confided to the audience of about 200.
But Ben would not be at the East Side synagogue. Nor would eight others who were killed with him on July 31when a terrorist bomb exploded in the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at Hebrew University's Mount Scopus campus.
Rabbi Rene Samuel Sirat, Europe’s chief rabbi emeritus, wasn’t pulling any punches. The 68-year-old former chief rabbi of France, who is Orthodox, used his recent visit to New York to assail the current state of Orthodox Judaism — particularly for its continuing mistreatment of women, the peace process, and “strangers” within its community.
Rabbi Sirat, a respected educator, also said that the Jewish community could learn a thing or two about repentance from the Catholic Church.
His given name is Aaron, the same as the first High Priest of the Children of Israel. He wears garments similar to those worn more than 2,000 years ago by the kohanim (Jewish priests) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
But this Aaron, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland whose mother died in Auschwitz, is a priest of a different kind. Having converted to Catholicism at the age of 15, he has risen to become Archbishop of Paris.