Grodno, Belarus — Tsilia Brido remembers her early Belarus Passover in her Polotsk hometown, her grandfather leading the seders in Hebrew, women from the neighborhood baking their matzahs in her family’s large wood stove.
“It was before the war,” she says, referring to World War II. Belarus was the first of the former Soviet Union’s republics to be invaded by the German army.
Brido remembers the seders ending after 1941, first under the Nazis, then under the communists.
The Catholic Church will continue to improve its relationship with the Jewish community, but interfaith ties under Pope Benedict XVI will probably not be as warm or as significant as under his predecessor, John Paul II.
That is the opinion of representatives of several prominent Jewish organizations following the election Tuesday of German-born Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the 265th pope. The early favorite to succeed Polish native John Paul II, Benedict XVI is the second non-Italian cardinal to lead the church in four-and-a-half centuries.
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
Adolf Hitler, to his generals, before the invasion of Poland in 1939
In the coming days, a people nearly annihilated during the last century will pause to remember its losses.
The recent $20 million settlement between a major American insurance firm and the heirs of Armenian policyholders killed in the Armenian Genocide had its genesis, indirectly, in the memoirs written nearly 90 years ago by a Jewish-American diplomat.
Henry Morgenthau Sr., the German native who served as U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during World War I, wrote in 1918 in “Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story” about an exchange with Talaat Pasha, Turkey’s Interior Minister and an architect of the Genocide.
Shortly after a little-known cardinal from Poland was elected spiritual head of the Catholic Church in 1978, Rabbi Arthur Schneier received a call from a network television correspondent asking for comment. The correspondent, who “equated Poles with anti-Semitism,” assumed that Rabbi Schneier, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Manhattan-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an ecumenical human rights organization, would comment negatively on the new pope, the rabbi recalls.
Judging by the statements and press releases issued on the letterheads of Jewish organizations following the death of Pope John Paul II, most of the Jewish community agreed that the pontiff made unprecedented contributions to Jewish-Catholic relations.
Jewish spokesmen cited the Vatican’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel, the pope’s condemnation of anti-Semitism as a “sin against God” and his general sensitivity to Jewish concerns.
Buenos Aires — At first glance, the once-thriving capital of Argentina looks as thriving as ever. The downtown commercial area, near the banks of the Rio de la Plata river, is filled with people. The shelves of the upscale shops are stocked with the latest goods. The city’s distinctive yellow-and-black taxis cruise the streets.
But at second glance …
At a modest exhibition on “Jewish Life and Culture” in the Piedmont region, which the Turin Jewish community hosted during the Olympics in the hall of the State Archives, the first thing a visitor notices is a glass-covered display case with 14 books in a half-dozen European languages.
All are the works of Primo Levi, the city’s native son.
Brad Hirschfield, an Orthodox rabbi, couldn’t make himself recite Mincha, the afternoon prayer service, one afternoon last week.
He had just left Auschwitz.
Rabbi Hirschfield, director of educational programs at CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, was part of a 50-member American delegation that visited Poland for the dedication of a renovated synagogue in Oswiecim, the town where the death camp was located.