Full Text JBuzz News March 25, 2013: Pope Francis: Passover Message to Jewish Community




Pope Francis: Passover telegram to Jewish Community (full text)

Source: Radio Vaticana, 3-25-13

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram to Rome’s Jewish community, to mark the feast of Passover, which this year begins at sundown, Monday, March 25th. Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of the full text of the message, addressed to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo di Segni, with whom the Holy Father met on March 20th during the course of his audience with delegations from other Christian confessions and non-Christian religions.


A few days on from our meeting, and with renewed gratitude for your having desired to honour the celebration of the beginning of my ministry with your presence and that of other distinguished members of the Jewish community, I take great pleasure in extending my warmest best wishes to you and Rome’s entire Jewish community on the occasion of the Great Feast of Pesach. May the Almighty, who freed His people from slavery in Egypt to guide them to the Promised Land continue to deliver you from all evil and to accompany you with His blessing. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you, confident that we can deepen [our] ties of mutual esteem and friendship. – FRANCIS

Gli auguri di Papa Francesco alla Comunità Ebraica

Source: Romaebraica, 3-25-13


Questa mattina gli uffici della segreteria di Stato del Vaticano hanno fatto recapitare una lettera firmata da Papa Francesco al Capo Rabbino della Comunità Ebraica di Roma. Bergoglio porge gli auguri di buon Pesach a tutta la Comunità romana e, in un passaggio della sua lettera, scrive: “L’Onnipotente, che ha liberato il suo popolo dalla schiavitù dell’Egitto per guidarlo alla Terra Promessa, continui a liberarvi da ogni male e ad accompagnarvi con la sua benedizione. Vi chiedo di pregare per me, mentre io assicuro la mia preghiera per voi, confidando di poter approfondire i legami di stima e di amicizia reciproca“.

Il Capo Rabbino, Riccardo Di Segni, ha accolto con piacere gli auguri del Pontefice e lo ringrazierà nelle prossime ore, porgendo a Papa Francesco i migliori auguri per la Pasqua Cristiana.

Dvir Bar-Gal: Cultural Exchange: Preserving the relics of Shanghai’s vanished Jewish population



Source: LAT, 7-17-11

Gravestones, many plundered or built over, are symbols of a forgotten group. Dvir Bar-Gal, an Israeli expatriate, works to preserve them.

Cultural ExchangeJewish gravestones being unearthed from Shanghai villages. (Dvir Bar-Gal)
By Dan Levin, Special to the Los Angeles TimesJuly 17, 2011

Reporting from Shanghai ——

The green fields on the western outskirts of this vast metropolis are dotted with ripening ears of corn, trash and the skeletons of half-built villas abandoned by bankrupt developers. But Dvir Bar-Gal, an Israeli expatriate and photojournalist, saw none of these as he trudged toward a putrid creek, his eyes scouring the ground. Rather, he was looking for something far older: gravestones buried in the mud — the lost relics of this city’s vanished Jews

“When I go out to these villages filled with peasants it’s almost like I’ve gone back to another era,” he said. “Sometimes I’m lucky. Suddenly I’ll see Hebrew letters or a Jewish star poking out. Then I have to dig it up.”

Since finding one for sale at a Shanghai antique shop 10 years ago, Bar-Gal, 45, has made it his mission to find the Jewish tombstones that once stood in four cemeteries belonging to the real-estate barons, bankers and penniless refugees who settled here before the Communists took power in 1949 and expelled China’s foreigners. During World War II, around 30,000 Jews fleeing Hitler found safe haven in the open port of Shanghai, where they built synagogues, Yiddish theaters and yeshivas even as the occupying Japanese forced many to live in a cramped ghetto.

If the Nazis failed to wipe out these Jewish lives, China’s Communist Party succeeded in erasing their deaths. In 1958, the government relocated all foreign graves to one international cemetery, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, when locals plundered the gravestones to use in construction. Although the Jewish bones are irrevocably lost, Bar-Gal, a blunt, balding man who left behind a job covering the chaos of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to devote himself to documenting Shanghai’s Jewish history, refuses to allow the elaborately carved markers to be consigned to the trash heap.

“It’s harder and harder to find them now because of all the development,” he said, pointing to new houses rising nearby.

In collaboration with the Israeli consulate, Bar-Gal has so far found 105 gravestones and has created the Shanghai Jewish Memorial Project tracking down the descendants of those who died and documenting their lives. He hopes one day the gravestones will become part of a Jewish memorial in the city’s Hongkou district, which once housed the ghetto and the Ohel Moshe synagogue, now a museum of Shanghai’s Jewish refugees. But, according to Bar-Gal, the district government has denied his request, claiming the gravestones would bring bad luck.

So they languish, cracked and broken, stored in a warehouse and piled up in a parking lot at the city’s Buddhist cemetery, which was once the international cemetery. With no one to look after his collection, the gravestones sometimes go missing. In April, Bar-Gal received word that two were on display at the Shanghai Burial Museum, which also functions as a crematorium….READ MORE

Professor Jonathan Sarna on the impact of the recession on Jewish communities

Source: JPR News Release, 7-7-09

Jonathan D Sarna*, Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, Mass, USA, delivered the JPR William Frankel Memorial Lecture in July in the auditorium of Berwin Leighton Paisner, in association with the Jewish Chronicle. The lecture was chaired by Harold Paisner, Chairman of JPR.

Professor Sarna gave a stark warning that over the coming year, the Jewish community would have to make difficult decisions concerning ‘who will live and who will die’ in Jewish communal life. He predicted that organizations that were weak or undercapitalized before the recession were the least likely to survive.

He highlighted five trends to watch out for:

1. He observed that some Jewish organizations in the United States either have, or are close to being merged into non-Jewish organizations. He said that today Jews seemed confident — maybe too confident — that deals could be made with secular non-Jewish or even avowedly Christian organizations, without Jewish identity being lost.

2. Efforts to re-engage small donors. Historically, large, wealthy donors have always dominated Jewish philanthropy. Today they are cutting back, but new technologies have made it easier to re-engage small donors cheaply.

3. Calls for higher standards of ethics and greater transparency in Jewish philanthropy. Madoff losses, investment losses and nationwide dissatisfaction with high executive salaries and perks are affecting the nonprofit world. Donors, and in some cases governments are demanding more financial openness, greater disclosure of conflicts of interest, and less reliance on the wisdom of a small, wealthy clique. He predicted that Jewish non-profit organizations would be stronger in the years ahead, if these reforms were instituted.

4. A new focus on ‘sweat equity’. Young, creative, technologically savvy Jews will give time to causes that inspire them. The goal is for them to make a difference and, also, as a side benefit, to socialize.

5. Both demographic decline and greater aliyah as jobs disappear in the diaspora. Demographic decline frequently accompanies prolonged downturns: people simply do not feel secure enough to have children.  Professor Sarna warned that this will have a ripple effect on Jewish education and communal life. And with unemployment for young people at the highest levels in decades, it was no surprise that Jews were turning to aliyah, especially the Orthodox.

He explained that these changes underscore one of the great demographic transformations in contemporary Jewish life:  Israel is overtaking the United States as the largest Jewish community in the world. Indeed, while Israel’s demographic rise marks the ultimate triumph of Zionism, for the rest of the world, however, this development will demand adjustments in communal thinking and the flow of money and power.

Professor Sarna predicted that when the economy recovers, we will know much more about the changes that the ‘Great Recession’ has wrought, but it was still far too early to take their full measure now.

In the meantime, he posed two crucial questions about the future:

First, will the years ahead be marked by assimilation or revitalization? It was easy to make the case both ways. For example, one week we hear that intermarriage is going through the roof, and the next that, in some communities new Jewish day schools are bursting at the seams. So which will predominate – assimilation or revitalization?  The truth is, he said, that nobody knows the answer.  It would be determined day by day, community by community, Jew by Jew.

The second question is whether the Jewish community will be able to identify a mission compelling enough for young Jews to become passionate about and rally around? The great causes that once energized contemporary Jewry – immigrant absorption, saving European, Soviet, Arab and Ethiopian Jewry, creating and sustaining a Jewish state–have now been successfully completed. Today, for the first time in memory, no large community of persecuted Jews exists anywhere in the diaspora.   Nor will 21st century young western Jews gain the kind of meaning from helping Israel, keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust and fighting antisemitism that their parents did.

In the meantime there is no shortage of secular and universal causes that attract young Jews, as well as social justice organizations directed at Jews. Jews are also embracing programmes to promote conservation, environmentalism, and the like.  These are significant causes, with a sound basis in our tradition, Professor Sarna said, but they are not, ultimately, Jewish causes, in the way that Zionism and the Soviet Jewry movement were. He concluded that Diaspora Jews are the poorer for not having a well-defined, elevating mission to inspire us.  Once the economic downturn is behind us, he called for the goal of formulating a new and compelling mission for our Jewish community to be high on our collective agenda.

*Professor Sarna is a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life, and the author of many books, including the acclaimed American Judaism: A History. He is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Director of its Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.

Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s fifty most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life.


Alan Pierce: Memoir of a community; Beverly man delves into North Shore’s Jewish history

A History of Boston’s Jewish North Shore

Source: The Salem News, 7-1-09

In 1775, he was one of those who joined General John Glover’s regiment. Yet, you only have to hear his name to realize that Abraham Solomon was different than his fellow soldiers, even signing the muster roll in Hebrew. For that matter, Solomon’s name on the rolls is one of the earliest references to Jewish people on the North Shore. But not the first. Sephardic Jews — with roots in Spain and Portugal — came to Salem as early as the 1600s.

Most arrived much later, explains Alan Pierce, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pouring in from Eastern Europe, hoping to escape violent religious persecutions and economic privation. These latecomers would have a profound impact on the region. Their story is included in Pierce’s book, “A History of Boston’s Jewish North Shore,” a small but invaluable paperback that charts the growth of the Jewish community, its institutions, places of worship and people. It includes many photos, but also text describing communities in Lynn, Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Marblehead and Swampscott. Essays and brief oral reminiscences give a vivid picture of the people.

“My family came to Beverly in 1906,” Joseph Rubenstein told the Beverly Hebrew School in 1992. “When I went to Hebrew School … I had to go through an Italian section and they always picked on us and I used to get into stone fights.” The animosity did not last, he recalled. Friendships developed. “We were always friendly with the gentiles,” Rubenstein said. “We were highly respected in the community.” During World War II, Rubenstein noted, dozens of Jewish men enlisted. “One of them died in the Bataan death march … the other died when his ship was sunk at sea.”

Pierce’s own family was part of it, their name changed from Perevoskon at Ellis Island. They settled in Peabody, finding work in the city’s grim leather factories. In later years, however, fortunes improved. The children and grandchildren of these Jewish families became factory owners themselves, as well as merchants, doctors, teachers, judges and political leaders. For his part, Pierce, 60, worked briefly in the leather industry, which only drove him to do better. “I wanted to sit in an office and have a suit,” he laughs. He studied government and law, eventually becoming a Salem attorney. He currently lives in Beverly. Over time, Pierce began to focus on his Jewish roots. He describes attending synagogue, letting the sound of Hebrew wash over him — the echo of ancient words more important than their meaning. He would go “into a zone.”

Soon, he began to see the importance of preserving a record of the Jewish presence on the North Shore. He joined the Jewish Historical Society. With the late Avrom Herbster, he authored “The Jewish Community of the North Shore.” His latest effort expands on that one. “This book is dedicated to our children,” Pierce explains. “It’s important for my sons’ generation to see how we used to be. It helps to define who I am and who we all are.” Jewish retailers are noted going back to William Filene who opened his Salem shop prior to the Civil War. Plush Jewish institutions were established, like the Kernwood Country Club in 1914 and Marblehead’s Dolphin Yacht Club in 1950.

Today, some leaders worry over a diminishing Jewish cohesion. Intermarriage is common. Loyalty to Israel, the Jewish state, sometimes seems weakened. Yet, Pierce notes, “A lot of synagogues are reaching out to make interfaith couples feel wanted.” Some converts, he adds, bring more devotion than those born to the religion. As for Israel, Pierce has no doubts that a bedrock of support remains. “The Jews of the North Shore have always been leaders in support of Israel. … In times of stress or crisis communities come together.” It matters to him, Pierce says, that he was born in 1948, the year that Israel became a state. All this makes it increasingly important that Jewish history be remembered and respected. “What I hoped the book would give us,” Pierce says, “is an idea of how valuable the Jewish community is.”