FaithWorld

Germany’s Jews step out of the shadow of the Holocaust

(Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal (3rd R) lights a giant menorah during a Hanukkah ceremony in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 20, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Yitshak Ehrenberg has witnessed a transformation in Germany’s Jewish community during his 15 years as an Orthodox rabbi in Berlin and he is determined to harness a new generation to ensure the religion thrives here.

“After the war, most of the community were refugees, survivors, broken souls who had lost their family and sometimes even their faith,” the 62-year-old told Reuters from a luxurious living room filled with modern art and family photographs.

“Now that generation has gone and the community is twice as big but 90 percent are from the former Soviet Union. If it weren’t for the new arrivals, the synagogue would be empty,” said the Israeli-born rabbi.

Ehrenberg’s experience reflects Jewish life which has been transformed across Germany by the influx of some 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union in the last 20 years.

German court fines SSPX Bishop Williamson for denying Holocaust

(Photo: Bishop Williamson leaves for London after expulsion order from Argentina, 24 Feb 2009/Enrique Marcarian)

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic bishop Richard Williamson was fined 6,500 euros Monday by a German court for publicly denying the Holocaust in 2009, a court spokesman said. British-born Williamson, 71, who belongs to a controversial Catholic splinter group, the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), was appealing a 2010 fine of 10,000 euros for telling Swedish TV that no more than 300,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.

He also denied in the interview the existence of gas chambers at Nazi concentration camps. Holocaust denial is a hate crime in Germany. Consensus among historians is that the Nazis killed six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Criticised Israeli ambassador backtracks on rare praise of Pope Pius XII

(Photo exhibit critical of Pius XII at at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, 15 April 2007/Yonathan Weitzman)

The comments made last Thursday by Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, were some of the warmest ever made by a Jewish official about Pius. Most have been very critical of his record.

In an indication of how sensitive the subject of Pius is among Jews, Lewy was quickly assailed by some Jewish groups, including Holocaust survivors. In a statement issued in what appeared to be an attempt to calm the dispute within the world Jewish community, Lewy said his comments were “embedded in a larger historical context”.

Israeli envoy to Vatican voices rare praise of wartime Pope Pius XII

(Pope Pius XII in an undated file photo/Osservatore Romano)

A leading Israeli official has praised Pope Pius XII for saving Jews during the Nazi occupation of Rome, a surprise twist in a long-standing controversy over the pontiff’s wartime role. The comments by Mordechay Lewy, the Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, were some of the warmest ever made by a Jewish official about Pius. Most have been very critical of his record.

Lewy, speaking at a ceremony on Thursday night to honor an Italian priest who helped Jews, said that Catholic convents and monasteries had opened their doors to save Jews in the days following a Nazi sweep of Rome’s Ghetto on October 16, 1943.

“There is reason to believe that this happened under the supervision of the highest Vatican officials, who were informed about what was going on,” he said in a speech. “So it would be a mistake to say that the Catholic Church, the Vatican and the pope himself opposed actions to save the Jews. To the contrary, the opposite is true,” he said.

New American Bible changes some words such as ‘holocaust’

bible

(A pocket Bible, June 29, 2008/Mike Segar )

A new edition of one the most popular English-language Bibles will offer substitutes for words such as “booty” and “holocaust” to better reflect modern understanding. Nearly 50 scholars from all faiths and a committee of Roman Catholic bishops have labored since 1994 over the first fresh edition of the New American Bible since 1970, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said on Wednesday.

The changes go beyond a few words being altered, and include freshly-written notes that should help readers better understand the Catholic Cchurch’s interpretation of biblical concepts, Sperry said.  The revisions more accurately reflect translations of ancient Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament and the constant evolution of modern-day language.

For example, the word “holocaust,” which for most people refers to the World War Two genocide of Jews, was changed to “burnt offerings,” which clarifies the original, positive idea of making offerings to God. “Booty,” which has come to have a sexual connotation, was changed to “spoils of war;” and “cereal,” which many think of as breakfast food, became “grain” to reference loads of wheat.

Catholics & Jews discuss their future dialogue, possible Muslim trialogue

bernardins

(Collège des Bernardins, site of the ILC meeting in Paris, 2 March 2011/Tom Heneghan)

Jewish and Roman Catholic leaders reviewing their dialogue over the past four decades expressed concern on Wednesday that younger generations had little idea of the historic reconciliation that has taken place between them. The two faiths must keep this awareness alive at a time when the last survivors of the Holocaust are dying and both the Catholic and Jewish worlds are changing in significant ways, they said at the end of a four-day interfaith conference.

The International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) met in Paris to discuss the future of the dialogue begun after the Catholic Church renounced its anti-Semitism and declared its respect for Judaism at the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

Germany opens first Reform synagogue since WW2

hameln

(Hameln, 21 November 2006/Marek Nocny)

Germany opened its first new Reform synagogue since the Holocaust on Sunday, marking a major step in the revival of Reform Judaism, which traces its roots to the country. The synagogue in the northern city of Hameln was built on the foundation of its predecessor, which was destroyed by the Nazis during the “Kristallnacht” pogrom in 1938. The congregation received financial backing for the synagogue primarily from local and state government.

“It’s incredible that, after the Shoah, in Germany a synagogue could be built with money that came from German political organizations,” the congregation’s president Rachel Dohme told Reuters.  The city’s reform congregation was founded in 1997 and has some 200 members, the majority of which are from the former Soviet Union.

Reform, or liberal, Judaism was pioneered in Germany by Israel Jacobson two centuries ago.

Muslims honor Jewish Holocaust victims at Auschwitz

auschwitz1

(Israeli Grand Rabbi Meir Lau speaks at the Victims Monument at Auschwitz Birkenau, Poland, February 1, 2011/Michal Lepecki)

Prominent Muslims joined Jews and Christians at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz on Tuesday in a gesture of interfaith solidarity designed to refute deniers of the Holocaust such as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. About 200 dignitaries from across the Islamic world, from Israel, European countries and international organizations such as UNESCO took part in the visit, which included a tour of the site and prayers in Arabic, Yiddish, English and French.

“We must teach our young people in mosques, churches and synagogues about what happened here,” Bosnia’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric told Reuters. “This awful place should stand as a reminder to all people that intolerance and lack of understanding between people can result in… such places as Auschwitz.”

Amid row with Israel, Turkish officials attend Istanbul Holocaust Day

turkey

Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva and Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu light a candle at Neve Shalom Synagogue to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day/Murad Sezer

In a rare show of unity with Istanbul’s dwindling Jewish community, government officials attended the country’s first official commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

“For generations in Istanbul, we have lived together with love, tolerance, fraternity and without discrimination, and we are extremely determined to continue living this way,” Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu said before lighting a candle with Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva at Neve Shalom Synagogue on January 27. Neve Shalom was one of two temples targeted in a 2003 bomb attack in Istanbul that was blamed on al Qaeda. Twenty-one Muslims and six Jews were killed, and hundreds more were wounded.

U.S. rabbis protest Fox host’s use of Holocaust imagery

beckFour hundred rabbis published a letter on Thursday calling on Fox News to sanction host Glenn Beck for repeated use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery and for airing attacks on World War Two survivor George Soros.

In an open letter to Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, which owns Fox, the rabbis also demand an apology from Fox News chief Roger Ailes for characterizing Beck’s Jewish critics as nothing more than “left-wing rabbis.” (Photo: Glenn Beck waves at his rally on the National Mall in Washington, August 28, 2010/Jonathan Ernst)

The letter appeared as an advertisement in the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal on Thursday for which the rabbis spent more than $100,000, a spokesman said.