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December 17, 1993 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-12-17

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Israel And The Vatican

So now that Israel and the Vatican have an-
nounced intentions of full diplomatic relations,
forgive us if we still have concerns.
There are many, many forthright, righteous
Catholic leaders all over the world who have
worked hard over the years to, if not erase, then
soothe the difficult history between Catholics and
Jews. Most of that history involved the forced con-
versions of Jews to Catholicism, the killing of Jews
who didn't accept Catholicism and the looking
aside by the Vatican during World War II at what
was happening to Europe's Jews.
We don't have to go back far, only 40 years or
so, to remember an attempt at a blood libel in New
England. Older Detroiters can talk of Father
Coughlin's anti-Semitism broadcast nationally
from the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak.
And then, in more recent history, there was the
issue of the Carmelite Convent's existence on the
grounds of Auschwitz.
Now, during a year of international warmth,
where Israel is signing peace accords with its
historical adversaries, we have impending recog-
nition from the Vatican. At issue for the Vatican
is whether or not its Catholics will have access or
have to pay taxes on religious shrines and prop-
erties in Israel. It was probably the momentum of
this fever of peace that drove the Vatican and
Israel together.
At issue here among Jews is an expectation

level. Just as the accord with the PLO brought out
severe emotions from both sides, there is justifi-
cation for healing in our relations with the orga-
nized Catholic Church as well. No, there aren't
Catholics throwing rocks at Israelis or settlers
shooting at anyone in this case. But as every
teacher of Jewish history knows, the hundreds of
years of Catholic atrocities against Jews is some-
thing that comes up so often it gets numbing after
Perhaps these memories were muted on the
world stage after 1965 when the Second Vatican
Council repudiated teachings blaming Jews for
the death of Jesus. But there was always the issue
of recognition of Israel.
As Abraham H. Foxman, national director of
the Anti-Defamation League, said, "So many pre-
liminary steps were taken to deal with a past that
was bitter and painful. But the sad thing is that
the Vatican will be almost the last country to
recognize Israel."
Healing time. We can't stop remembering what
was said and done. We're happy about the
prospects of living in a world of respect and recog-
nition between Israel and the Vatican. But as
we've written before about a need for cautious
optimism regarding Israel and the PLO, we need
to be tender with our survivors and reverent of
our history.


Missing Title
Was Inappropriate

With reference to the letter
from Phillip Applebaum,
printed in the Letters column
of The Jewish News on Dec.
10 ("Observations on Christ-
mas"), the factual and theo-
logical particulars he notes
are appropriate.
Inappropriate, however,

Rachel Kapen
West Bloomfield

Our Elderly

Not Like Everyone Else











In recent days we've read news stories in the local
and national media about continuing clashes
around the country dealing with Chanukah meno-
rahs and Christmas decorations. They are being
placed everywhere, from a town hall on public
property, to a shopping mall, to Detroit's own
Renaissance Center.
Last week, a Jewish security guard at the
Renaissance Center, who had placed decorations
for secular holidays such as Halloween and
Thanksgiving on her desk, was told by authori-
ties to remove a Happy Chanukah sign. All around
were decorations of Christmas. Hers was the only
sign of Chanukah in the huge complex.
Renaissance officials have since cleared up the
matter and life will go on. The truth is, though, as
long as these decorations are permitted and as
long as we feel a need to assimilate ourselves, we'll
see more and more of these conflicts.
For each placement of a menorah in a public
place alongside a Christmas decoration, there is
a different reason. This is not to discount groups
such as Lubavitch who make Chanukah symbols
visible to remind Jews to light candles and urge
Jews to look into the symbolism and history of the
holiday. There is, however, still a danger of set-
ting up a menorah in a department store or at city
hall just because there are Christmas decorations
present. Chanukah is not about equal time and
equal placement of decorations. For that matter,
neither is Christmas.
Talk to many devout Christians and they'll tell
you that they abhor the blatant commercializa-
tion of their holiday. There are Christians who
don't even celebrate Christmas by purchasing a
tree and gifts, preferring instead to give to charity.
We don't need to place decorations in public
places if it's done in the spirit of conforming with

American society. Ha Jew or any other person is
prohibited from placing something because of his
faith, that's a different issue, one that needs to be
examined. Of course, we would support efforts
to provide equal opportunity to anyone, especially
by public institutions.
But with that equal opportunity, we'd like to
urge the opportunity that Jews have to proudly
open their draperies, and let the Chanukah can-
dles glow from the insides of their homes. During
times of religious oppression, there are many
heroic stories of how Jews kindled their candles
in their basements or attics to avoid detection.
There are stories of how Jews in concentration
camps took whatever precious oil they could find,
tore part of their garments for a wick and burned
the strands to have some sort of Chanukah expe-
rience. These are the issues of the holiday that are
memorable and important.
In this day and age, we can live up to those hero-
ic acts by showing our children that the place to
celebrate our holidays', be it Chanukah, Sukkot
or Purim, is in our homes, not in the food court
of a mall or the grounds of a municipal building.
Our children need not feel left out or second to
anyone if they hear Mom and Dad teach them that
our holidays and symbols are about God, not ways
to attract us to an all-night sale.
Our survival depends on continuity that is
learned at home. It's not up to a mall to provide
that for us. It's not the responsibility of a man-
agement company or a town. It's up to us.
If our children know what is waiting for them
at home, rather than what is displayed at a mall,
then we can feel comfortable. And this whole
menorah and Christmas tree business could take
a rest because we wouldn't feel the need to be like
everyone else.

Chanukah to Christmas is
only coincidental, and al-
though Jewish tradition calls
Chanukah gelt to be given to
children, it bears no resem-
blance to the imitation of
Christmas practiced by many
Instead of helping to per-
petuate this distortion of the
holiday which signifies our
people's triumph over the
forces of extinction and as-
similation, The Jewish News
would do good to help educate
its readers in the wealth of
Jewish literacy and tradition.
Thus, imitation of others
wouldn't be necessary.

Amy Bigman:
Rabbi, not Ms.

are his references to "Amy
Bigman" and "Ms. Bigman."
She is not "Ms." Bigman, but
an ordained rabbi, serving a
congregation in the metro-
politan Detroit area.
Inappropriate also was
your choice to print the letter
as presented. Omitting Rabbi
Bigman's rightful title is a
less-than-subtle slur.

Cecilia J. Lakin
West Bloomfield

The Imitation
Of Christmas

What a disappointment it
was to see in the issue sup-
posedly dedicated to Chanu-
kah, on the one hand the
heartwarming display of the
winning entries of the annual
art contest and on the other
hand its total commerciali-
zation as depicted in the Gift
Guide which, among other
things, showed Jewish chil-
dren surrounded by elegantly
wrapped, expensive gifts.
As we all know or should
know, the proximity of

Does anyone care?
Save Borman Hall. This
Jewish home for the aged is
threatened soon to be closed.
Why are we abandoning our
own Jewish elderly?
If the state had closed it
there would have been an
outrageous cry. Had goyim
(non-Jews) forced the closing,
screams of anti-Semitism
would have been heard. But
now that our own Jewish
Federation of Detroit has
stopped funding and admis-
sions, virtually closing the
Borman Jewish Home for
Aged, there is a deafening
We fought, marched and
protested to help create a
Jewish state to help support
it. We marched and protested
for Russian Jewry. Where are
the moral outrage, cries of
shame, the caring concern for
our own poor defenseless
elderly? Why are we not
marching and protesting for
their rights and needs?
Practically every city in the
United States has a Jewish
home for the aged that they
can look on with pride. This
community also has the right
to expect a clean, pleasant,
safe, well-run home where
good nursing and medical
care are provided and where
the elderly can live in digni-
ty and with pride.
Federation talks of alter-
native care. Does this mean
taking about 150 remaining

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