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."
Think of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the world's most notorious killing ground, and most people will picture emaciated Jews destined for the gas chambers.
Few will recall that on Oct. 7, 1944, inmates smuggled gunpowder into the camp and destroyed one of its crematoria, consuming three Nazi officers in the fires they had intended for Jews.
The death camp at Treblinka is notorious for having killed between 700,000 and 1 million Jews. But the story of a 1943 revolt by some 600 inmates has barely been told.
The struggle over gay rights in the Jewish community heated up this week in the Conservative and Orthodox movements. At the Jewish Theological Seminary on the Upper West Side, a group of rabbinical students are launching an effort to gain grassroots support to change the Conservative ban on ordaining gay and lesbian rabbis. The action follows a heated meeting between the students and Chancellor Dr. Ismar Schorsch, who reiterated his long-standing opposition to overturning the ban against openly gay rabbinical students.
Joseph Schleifstein, a self-confessed foreign film buff, read a review of "Life is Beautiful" in January and then went to the Paris Theater on 58th Street to see it.The Italian film, a fable that two weeks ago won three Oscars, is about a Jewish boy who survives the Holocaust hidden by his father in a Nazi concentration camp.
"In all honesty, I saw the parallels immediately," he said. "Trust me, I related to the movie. It brought back a lot of memories ... in terms of being hidden in Buchenwald with my father and him being protective of me.
The ongoing debate over police brutality, which has gripped the city like few issues in recent memory, should be a matter of serious concern to the Jewish community, says a key Jewish councilman.
"We want a city that runs well, that people feel is operating in the interests of everybody," says Sheldon Leffler (D-Northern Queens). "Otherwise we have the potential for unrest, for explosion, for striking out."
With preparations under way for Pope John Paul's historic Millennium visit to Jerusalem next March, the question of the Vatican's political position on the future of the Holy City takes on greater significance.Some Jewish leaders may not like what they hear. Talking to Jewish interfaith leaders at recent conference in Washington, D.C., Vatican Foreign Minister Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran advocated that all the "holy places" in Israel be put under "international guarantees" of access.