Friday, December 13, 1985
THE JEWISH NEWS
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CANDLELIGHTING AT 4:42 P.M.
VOL. LXXXVIII, NO. 16
Pressure is mounting on the Vatican to establish diplomatic
recognition of Israel. At a recent dinner in New York honoring Cardinal
John O'Connor, Edgar Bronfman ruffled some feathers in making a
dramatic appeal for the Cardinal to urge the Vatican to recognize Israel.
"Please convey to Rome the importance to Jews everywhere of
normalizing relations between the Vatican and Israel, which is home for
so much of Jewish culture and so many of the world's Jews," said
Bronfman, who is president of the World Jewish Congress.
In going public, he reflected the growing discontent among many
Jews with the Church's long-standing refusal to recognize Israel. And for
those who worried that such a confrontation with the Church might
backfire, Bronfman noted, "Jews have been too diplomatic."
He is right. The Pope has met with Yassir Arafat but still cites the
status of Jerusalem, ambiguities over West Bank borders and concern
about reprisals against Christians as reasons for not establishing
relations with Israel.
The 20th anniversary this year of Nostra Aetate, the historic
document of the Second Vatican Council that deplored anti-Semitism and
absolved the Jews of the death of Jesus, was seen as an appropriate time
to raise the Israel issue again.
Of course the Vatican's position is not known. When Zionist leader
Theodor Herzl met Pope Pius X in 1904 to make his case for a Jewish
state — with Jerusalem an international city — the Pope was opposed,
citing theological reasons. "Jews have not recognized our Lord; we cannot
recognize the Jewish people." If the Jews insisted on returning, he said:
"We shall have churches and priests ready to baptize all of you."
Jewish-Catholic dialogue over the ensuing decades has brought
progress on a number of issues, but "Israel" is still a forbidden word. As
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a participant in such dialogue since 1969,
asserts: "The Church refuses to accept the notion that world Jewry — like
the Church itself — has temporal as well as spiritual concerns. They
want to treat us as a purely spiritual entity so they can avoid dealing
with the issue that matters most to us — explicit recognition of Israel."
Let the pressure mount until word comes forth from the Holy See.
The Jewish Welfare Federation has made numerous changes in the
Allied Jewish Campaign in recent years. Those efforts have gone far
beyond the realm of just attracting new contributors and
Federation and its affiliated agencies in Detroit have worked hard to
re-acquaint young Detroiters with the Jewish Community Center, Sinai
Hospital, Hebrew Free Loan, Jewish Family Service, the Fresh Air
Society and the nine other area Jewish agencies under the Federation
umbrella. The number of Jewish Detroiters who are unaware of the
services available is probably matched only by the large numbers who are
indifferent or do not contribute to the funding arm for these agencies —
the Allied Jewish Campaign.
Detroiters' response to the critical needs will affect our national
reputation for unmatched services to the Jewish community and
unmatched philanthropy. More importantly, it will affect our Jewish poor,
our Jewish elderly, and Jewish education of our children.
For Interfactional Infighting
BY BURTON A. ZIPSER
Special to The Jewish News
In the weeks since you pub-
lished the ad and commentary (Oct.
11) relating to the advice of an Or-
thodox rabbinic group admonishing
Orthodox Jews not to pray in Con-
servative or Reform synagogues, I
have been waiting for someone to
provide an answer which is neither
supportive of one side of that issue
or the other. It seems no one has
been able to suggest the Jewish
solution to this problem, namely, the
"third alternative." I hope that I can
offer such a direction.
(For the record, I am a liberal
Jew who has studied all aspects of
my religion, whose sons were edu-
cated both in Orthodox yeshivah and
Reform congregational one-day-a-
week schools, and who has partici-
pated as a singer in services of three
of the four branches of contemporary
The discussion of Jewish belief
and practice always comes down to a
term — Halakhah. The crux of the
entire problem relating to the Ethio-
pian Jews who arrived in Israel dur-
ing the past year is based on
halakhic interpretation of whether
or not they are really Jewish. The
discussion over the Who is a Jew?"
controversy in Israel (and perhaps
elsewhere) is based upon interpreta-
tion of Halakhah. In all matters re-
lating to specifically Jewish queS-
tions, the topic of Halakhah is raised
as the final arbitrator.
What is this magical device?
First of all, the simplest definition
(From Runes' Concise Dictionary of
Judaism) is the way one goes." This
quite easily summarizes the whole
complex history of Halakhah, which
covers the multitude of practices de-
rived from various interpretations of
the Torah which have been provided
by rabbis, scholars, and other
learned students of the Torah
throughout Jewish history. To the
non-Orthodox Jew, this Halakhah
would seem to be the final judge of
all Jewish situations. However, it is
not as simple as that.
In your sense of Oct. 18, the re-
sponse by the Council of Orthodox
Rabbis suggests that the Torah is
. . a raison d'etre of living and
breathing. We believe that God and
his laws as well as the development
of the system of Halachah . . ." I stop
at this point since this is the crux of
the whole question. If we were to
take the Torah and its laws as the
sole defining text upon which to base
our actions and tenets of living, we
If we were to take the
Torah and its laws as the
sole defining text . . . we
should then become
Karaites, who do just
should then become Karaites, who
do just that. But, the history of
Judaism has been a constant re-
interpretation and discussion of the
Torah and its laws.
The reply to the whole discus-
sion can best be expressed in the an-
swer of the school board which
agreed to teach the principles of
religion as long as the various reli-
gious leaders in the community
could agree on what should be
taught. We forget too easily that
even Orthodox rabbis do not always
agree on halakhic interpretation.
Sephardic and Ashkenazic rabbis in
Israel often disagree on small points
of interpretation, such as the degree
to which certain foods are acceptable
during Passover. Is one side more
right than the other? Is one side,
The biggest problem we face in