In what may be his last official Passover message to Jews, John Cardinal O'Connor, the spiritual leader for millions of New York Catholics, sent out a heartfelt letter to Jewish colleagues saying he is ashamed of the hateful actions of Catholics in the past, and asks that he be remembered by Jews as their friend.
The 78-year-old archbishop, who suggests that he will retire early next year, wrote that at Passover, he is reminded of "the steadfast faith of Jews throughout the generations."
A Brooklyn native voluntarily returned to New York from Israel and pleaded guilty for his role in a drug-money laundering scandal involving members of the Bobover chasidic sect, two prominent Orthodox community leaders and a Colombian cartel.
In the unusual scenario, Michael Halberstam agreed to a plea bargain last month with the office of the U.S. Attorney's Eastern District. His surrender contrasts with recent episodes (notably the Samuel Sheinbein murder case) in which the United States has attempted to extradite Americans from Israel.
Admitting that his Reform movement's controversial 20-year-old outreach program has failed to reach its potential, Rabbi Eric Yoffie has called for new efforts to bring Reform Judaism to tens of thousands of unaffiliated North American Jews and intermarried couples.
"We have not accomplished all that we should have," Rabbi Yoffie, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), told about 75 Reform officials at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue last Sunday, while addressing a 20th anniversary celebration of the denomination's outreach program.
Who will speak on behalf of world Jewry in its evolving relationship with the Vatican? Should it fall to a coalition of secular and religious Jewish organizations meeting with stated goals and guidelines?
Or, should every Jewish organization hold its own separate dialogue, without an umbrella group to provide a unified stance, and without accountability to the larger Jewish community?
It may be the most comprehensive survey of the Jewish people since Moses counted the Jews as recorded in the Book of Numbers. Researchers this week said they sent out nearly 900 draft copies of the ambitious $4 million National Jewish Population Survey to an array of Jewish organizations for their input. Many believe the 250-question poll will set the agenda for the American Jewish community for the 21st century.
Efforts to eliminate anti-Semitic language and themes from the world's most famous Passion Play in time for its millennium production are not going smoothly. So says an unhappy Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of interfaith affairs for the Anti-Defamation League, who returned to New York last week from unsuccessful meetings in the German village of Oberammergau trying to persuade the producers to make changes in the production, which will run May 22-Sept. 29, 2000.
Social scientist Gary Tobin acknowledges that some Jewish leaders think his bold idea to help save the future of American Jewry is part of a "lunatic conversation.
"Having said that, the San Francisco-based demographer launches into a carefully reasoned presentation of his multibillion-dollar proposal called "proactive conversion" to make Judaism more attractive to Christians, agnostics, non-Jewish spouses of Jews and children of mixed marriages.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Academy Award-winning producer of Holocaust-related documentaries, has called for a letter-writing campaign to block sainthood for Pope Pius XII, saying it would desecrate the memory of the Shoah because of his silence during World War II.
"Such a nomination demeans the meaning of sainthood for countless others who are truly deserving of such a tribute," he declared during his State of World Jewry address last week at the 92nd Street Y.
When Fan Wiener read in her local daily newspaper that the nation's Reform rabbis had voted to push for more Jewish tradition (including eating kosher) the 79-year-old Dallas grandmother thought of bolting Reform Judaism.
"She called me and threatened to quit the two major Reform temples she belongs to," says her son Thomas, a Philadelphia attorney. "She said she didn't intend to become a Conservative or Orthodox Jew."
Feeling estranged from the establishment American Jewish community's current "love it or leave it" support of Israel, scores of American rabbinical students have banded across denominational lines to raise critical questions about Israeli policy while also supporting the Jewish state.