The Feast of Shavuot (Weeks) = Pentecost


Moritz Daniel Oppenheim: “Shavuot (Pentecost) (Das Wochen- oder Pfingst-Fest)”

Seven weeks after Passover and the exodus from Egypt, the twelve tribes came to Mount Sinai and prepared to respond to the divine call to enter the bilateral Covenant. In this way they became a holy nation (GOY) (Exodus 19:6), receiving the commandments and destined to progress toward their own land wherein they would be free to serve the living God.

The annual eight-day festival brought Jews and converts to Judaism to Jerusalem during the time that Judea was ruled by the Roman procurator. The proclamation of the Book of Ruth challenged the listeners to find room for the stranger in their midst. The Acts of the Apostles (2:1-41) offers a description of the Christian community’s message to the world represented by the participants in this feast of unity. This editorial of the NJ Jewish News draws attention to the reverberations of this theme for the Jewish people of our time: https://njjewishnews.timesofisrael.com/the-unity-of-shavuot/.

Jewish and Christian calendars coincide this year, so both communities draw attention to the Torah and its Decalogue, the Ten Words that provide the principles for life in community. For Christians this is “the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:2) challenging us to foster unity in our response to the divine will. May both communities foster the insights into God’s gift of peace for all creation, calling for our obedience!

No Anti-Jewish Bigotry in Catholic Churches

A Polish historian with extreme “revisionist” views on Polish-Jewish relations during the World War II period was scheduled to speak in a number of parish churches in the New York area this coming weekend. An alert group of Catholics and other people of good will wrote to the Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, to request that local churches not be the place for such lectures. Subsequently, Cardinals Dolan, Tobin and Cupich in the Archdiocese of New York, Newark and Chicago have cancelled these events in their parish churches. The people inviting such a speaker may find another space, but unsuspecting parishioners won’t be subjected to a bigoted message.

In the 1980s the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies sponsored several lectures on World War II and the Shoah (the Holocaust). Each time when the topic involved the situation in Poland, a group in the audience would launch an abusive attack on the speakers during the question period. Even Professor Jan Karski, the heroic Polish witness in 1942 and the British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were not respected!

It is very sad that a generation later these expressions of bitter hatred have been linked to current political issues in Poland and elsewhere. Scholarly exchanges do not seem to be feasible in this situation. So for now we can only pray for reconciliation and healing of memories. May continued vigilance by people of good will on the local level continue so that the title of this post will remain accurate!

Tragic Events Worldwide

Photo by Wandrille de Préville [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

On April 15, 2019 all were dismayed to see flames soaring above the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris! This work of faith that began 850 years ago was threatened in a way that went beyond the depredations of past wars and the French “Enlightenment.” This was an accident, perhaps due to human negligence but not the result of malice or wickedness. We are grateful that no lives were lost and thank the firefighters for their brave efforts to save great parts of the building and its precious contents!

On Easter Sunday vicious attacks on Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka evoke another depth of sadness among decent people everywhere. The communities gathered to celebrate their faith were overwhelmed by the horrific destruction of human life by people willing to die along with their innocent victims. Again we listen for clear denunciation of such atrocities by leaders of the larger groups from which these crimes have come.

More recently in the United States, this time in Poway, southern California, we are shocked to learn of another invasion of a Jewish house of worship with murderous intent, this time by a youth who has absorbed anti-Jewish bigotry from his surroundings.

We offer sympathy to the survivors and families of those whose lives were cut short. May people of good will everywhere be alert to those in our midst who manifest that they harbor malice in their hearts. May the latter be touched by a person who persuades them to seek help in dealing with their unwholesome attitude and other needs.  In the pulpit and classroom may educators provide avenues to share the gift of peace!

We join the Bishops of the Unites States in praying for the victims of the attack on ChaBaD House in Poway. See the President of U.S. Bishops’ Statement on Synagogue Shooting in Poway, California and the statement by San Diego Catholic Bishop Robert W. McElroy.

As we recall other situations of persecution of Jews in the United States, the continuing attacks on Catholics in parts of Nigeria over the past decade should be in our prayers as well. See “Archbishop Says Christians Slaughtered ‘Like Chickens’ in Nigeria” by Thomas D. Williams, Ph.D.

Rembrandt and Rubens

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), celebrated as painter, etcher and printmaker, died at the age of 63. He is commemorated in many places on this major anniversary of his death. Nina Siegal in the The New York Times essay, “The Relevance of Rembrandt 350 years later,” described the exhibitions. See also Russell Shorto’s essay, “Rembrandt in the Blood,” in the The New York Times Magazine.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) traveled widely in Italy and Spain in his younger years and quite early attained an international reputation. His story was presented by J.S. Marcus, “The Ruben Phenomenon,” in the The Wall Street Journal. The Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco offers an exhibit of young Rubens from April 6 – September 8, 2019; see https://legionofhonor.famsf.org/exhibitions/early-rubens.

Verrocchio, Master of Leonardo

Andrea del Verrocchio (1435-1488) had the distinction of teaching Leonardo da Vinci and other great Renaissance artists of Florence, Italy. “Verrocchio shone as a teacher, draftsman and sculptor – as well as architect and musician – but his talents reached their apotheosis in bronze casting…” (Brenda Cronin, “Teacher of the Old Masters,” wsj.com).

An exhibition opened on March 9th at the Palazzo Strozzi and the Bargello Museum in Florence; see www.palazzostrozzi.org/mostre/verrocchio-master-of-leonardo/?lang=en.  Some works will be exhibited in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. from September 15, 2019; see www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2019/andrea-del-verrocchio-renaissance-florence.html.

Birds in Art

Phoenix Futon Cover Japan, Showa Period (1926-1989). Cotton, yuzen resist-dyed indigo. Purchase 1983 Thomas L. Raymond Bequest Fund 83.91. Part of the “Birding in Art” exhibit at the Newark Museum.

The Newark Museum has celebrated its treasures of Asian Art in many exhibits.  From March 13, 2019 until February 23, 2020, “Birding in Asian Art” continues this impressive tradition.

Detail of a miniature of an owl (Bubo) being attacked by three smaller birds. Image taken from f. 47 of Bestiary, with extracts from Giraldus Cambrensis on Irish birds. Written in Latin.

This exhibit reminds us of the long history in the Mediterranean world of drawing moral and spiritual lessons from the wonders of nature. In Greek the Physiologos, a “discourse on nature” of approximately the third century A.D., gathered earlier traditions into a synthesis that became popular in the Latin bestiaries of the eleventh century and later.

Detail of a miniature of a crocodile. Image taken from f. 24 of Bestiary (ff. 3-141), Lapidary (ff. 141v-149). Written in Latin and French.

The Book of God’s Word and the Book of Nature offered insights into the meaning of life for many generations of people who looked for ways to teach guiding principles in regard to faith and morality. The developments in East and West complement each other and may still have lessons for people of the modern world.

Detail of a miniature of Adam naming the animals, with a stag, a lion, a donkey, a rabbit and a man riding a camel. Image taken from f. 34v of Bestiary (ff. 3-141), Lapidary (ff. 141v-149). Written in Latin and French.

Fiftieth Anniversary of Augustin Cardinal Bea

At an age when many people have long since retired, Augustin Bea found himself thrust into the heart of some of the most controversial debates in modern Catholic history—and became one of the quiet heroes of modern Jewish-Catholic relations.The Church understands the day of a person’s death to be the birthdate of a person’s entry into life eternal. Thus the anniversary of death is an occasion for reflecting with gratitude for a person’s life, with review of the person’s accomplishments in the service of God and neighbor. Of course, no one here below is privy to the details of a person’s eternal destiny, but we assess the person’s life by the fruit that it produced. Thus the occasion of a conference to commemorate the work of Augustin Cardinal Bea (1881-1968) drew attention to his immense contributions to the progress of the Second Vatican Council in the areas of Christian ecumenism and interreligious relations.

On February 28, 2019 Pope Francis addressed the participants in the meeting that commemorated the major anniversary of Cardinal Bea’s death. For the text of the Pope’s address, visit the Vatican’s website here and for the events being held in Cardinal Bea’s honor, visit the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies of the Gregorian University here.

With a focus on Catholic-Jewish dialogue, the Pope encouraged the widening of this dialogue for local parishes and synagogues to collaborate “in service of those in need and by promoting paths of peace and dialogue with all.”

The Call to Confront Antisemitism

Proteus, “Der Höllische Proteus, oder Tausendkünstige Versteller,” Erasmus Francisci (1627-1694)

The International Conference of Christians and Jews (ICCJ) recently issued “The Demands of Our Time: A Statement on Antisemitism.” This text reviews the history of anti-Jewish bigotry and the places where it rises today. We are surprised and discouraged at times by its manifestations. Like the sea-god Proteus in Greek mythology, antisemitism continues to take many shapes and forms. All who read this statement note its focus on Western culture. This is the context for our efforts to educate the younger generation, but other cultures can be infected by this “virus” as well.

After a two-year hiatus, President Trump has named Mr. Elan S. Carr to be “the State Department’s special envoy to monitor antisemitism.” See Ron Kampeas’ article, “Elan Carr comes to new post as anti-Semitism monitor with diverse skills,“ published by the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey.

Mr. Ira Forman, Mr. Carr’s predecessor appointed by President Obama, made a presentation at a meeting of the United States Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Synagogues four years ago. This was an impressive review of his efforts to collaborate with leaders in many European nations. Contact with the Catholic Bishops Conferences was often very helpful, so Mr. Forman was interested to develop such avenues for working together. We hope that Mr. Carr can build on these relationships!

The Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel of December 30, 1993 places this concern at the forefront of its goals. Article 2 reads:

The Holy See and the State of Israel are committed to appropriate cooperation in combatting all forms of antisemitism and all kinds of racism and of religious intolerance, and in promoting mutual understanding among nations, tolerance among communities and respect for human life and dignity.

The Holy See takes this occasion to reiterate its condemnation of hatred, persecution and all other manifestations of antisemitism directed against the Jewish people and individual Jews anywhere, at any time and by anyone. In particular, the Holy See deplores attacks on Jews and desecration of Jewish synagogues and cemeteries, acts which offend the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, especially when they occur in the same places which witnessed it.

Twenty-five years later this call to cooperate in education and service of justice and peace deserves our renewed attention!

Police in the Nazi Period and Now

A policeman (left) and his dog on street patrol side-by-side with a Nazi auxiliary.

The Jewish-Christian Studies Graduate Program is hosting the professional study day, “Police in the Nazi Period and Now,” on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm at Seton Hall University. The event is offered free of charge, including lunch, but you must register at bit.ly/RSVP2019TSD.

Theme

The role of the police in a society has been defined in a way that is distinct from the nation’s armed services. When Sir Robert Peel was Home Secretary of England, the Metropolitan Police Force was created in 1829. For almost two centuries the “bobby” has been honored in England, but for the Irish the “peeler” was less than beloved!

How were the police in Nazi Germany and occupied lands perceived by minorities and others who refused to collaborate in building the Third Reich? How did the ordinary police differ from the infamous secret police (Gestapo)?

Our first speaker, Dr. Peter Black, will review the tragic history of police action in Europe of the Nazi period. The second speaker, Dr. Maria Haberfeld, will focus on police education in the United States and describe some of the ways police departments interact with local communities.

The program is an accredited service provider in the State of New Jersey. Therefore all participating teachers will receive 5 “credit hours” for their participation. You can access the full agenda at bit.ly/TSD2019.

About the Speakers

Peter R. Black, Ph.D. is retired from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where he served as Senior Historian from 1997-2016. Previously he served as Chief Historian for the Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice (1978-1997). Dr. Black published Ernst Kaltenbrunner: Ideological Soldier of the Third Reich (1984) and has written several articles and chapters in books. Since 2016 he has been active as an independent historian and consultant.

 

Maria (Maki) Haberfeld, Ph.D. is Professor of Police Science in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. She received the Master of Arts in Criminology from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Her publications include Critical Issues in Police Training (2002), Contours of Police Integrity (co-editor, 2003), Police Leadership (2005), Introduction to Policing: The Pillar of Democracy (co-authored, 2014), and other books, including three on terrorism.

Week of Christian Unity Prayer Service

Ecumenical leaders of the Catholic Archdiocese of Newark and the Episcopal Diocese of Newark organized a prayer service for January 20, 2019 at the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Roseland, NJ. The threat of bad weather caused the event to be postponed until February 3rd.

The 2019 theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, traditionally held from January 18-25 each year, was chosen by the Christians of Indonesia. They focused on the text of Deuteronomy 16:1-20. “Justice and only justice you shall pursue” (16:20) is a challenge that resonates throughout Jewish and Christian communities of faith worldwide. Originally this text applied to judges in Israel but can relate to all dimensions of leadership in service of humanity.

Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, presided over the service with pastors of several congregations in the sanctuary with him. He introduced the service with a call to prayer. “As we pray together, we are reminded that our calling as members of the body of Christ is to pursue and embody justice. Our unity in Christ empowers us to take part in the wider struggle for justice and to promote the dignity of life.”

In his homily Cardinal Tobin drew upon the Gospel of Luke 4:14-21 with its quotation from Isaiah 61:1-2 as the basis for a challenge to Christians today. Referring to the Superbowl and its selection of heroes in the game, he drew attention to the 76th anniversary of the sinking of the USS troop ship Dorchester on February 3, 1943.  There was another kind of heroism in the witness of the four chaplains, Protestant, Catholic and Jewish, who gave their life-jackets to young sailors and perished, their arms linked in prayer.

You can read “No Greater Glory: The Four Chaplains and the Sinking of the USAT Dorchester” by Command Sergeant Major James H. Clifford, USA-Ret. to learn more about John P. Washington, Alexander D. Goode, George L. Fox and Clarke V. Poling and their brave sacrifice. Seton Hall University remembers its graduate Father John P. Washington, whose memory is recalled each year in St. Stephen’s Church in Kearny, NJ. (See https://ststephenkearny.com/father-washington-1).

The service on February 3rd included the commitment of the many participants to bring the call to pursue justice into their daily lives in the coming year. Our prayer is that this would be expanded so that the search for Christian unity will be put into action by deeds of the justice which works for peace in the world.