Pope Francis Says Jews Have Covenant with God and Apologizes for Anti-Semitism

The Jewish Daily Forward looked over Pope Francis’ new vision for the Catholic church and found this within it:

“Dialogue and friendship with the children of Israel are part of the life of Jesus’ disciples,” Francis wrote in the document. “The friendship which has grown between us makes us bitterly and sincerely regret the terrible persecutions which they have endured, and continue to endure, especially those that have involved Christians.” The Catholic Church, Francis wrote, holds “the Jewish people in special regard because their covenant with God has never been revoked.”

This is an important statement not just because it apologizes for anti-Semitism by Catholics in the past, but because it plainly states that the covenant between Jews and God has never been revoked – it acknowledges that Jews who follow Judaism are heirs to the promises of God He has made to them.

Kristallnacht

November 9-10, 1938

Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, was an event which pretty much started off the Holocaust. 91 Jews were killed. 267 synagogues were destroyed and 30,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps. Leaders from around the Western world issued statements commemorating the anniversary of this event:

Pope Francis called Jews the “big brothers” of the Catholic church:

We renew our closeness and solidarity to the Jewish people, our big brothers, and pray to God that the memory of the past and of the sins of the past helps us to be always vigilant against every form of hate and intolerance.

President Obama said:

Kristallnacht “now signifies the tragic consequences of silence in the face of unmitigated hatred. As we mark this anniversary, let us act in keeping with the lessons of that dark night by speaking out against anti-Semitism and intolerance, standing up to indifference, and recommitting ourselves to combating prejudice and persecution wherever it exists.”

and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said Kristallnacht

“was an event that humiliated Jews in an unbelievable way … a real low point in German history had been reached.”

The WBC and Jews

This article is amazing.

Basically, the granddaughters of Fred Phelps were confronted by a Jew from the website Jewlicious over Westboro Baptist Church’s stances on Jews and homosexuality. Through this interaction, they were able to see that their stances were ridiculous. They’ve left WBC and are spending a month in a Jewish community in Montreal and will also speak at a Jewish festival on November 3.

Freemasonry and Beyond

The world of Freemasonry is a strange one. At least 9 people who signed the Declaration of Independence were Freemasons. Around 13 signers of the Constitution were. George Washington, John Hancock, James Monroe, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Ford….all Freemasons. As a matter of fact, a total of 14 presidents were – the last one being Ford. Abraham Lincoln applied for membership, but withdrew his application because he said people would think he did it to get votes. He gave assurances he would re-apply after his presidency was over. We know how that went…

At one time, Freemasonry was an organization that included virtually all the movers and shakers in society. Our lodge includes a member of the Birmingham City Council, a few businessmen and policemen, but nothing like it once was. The things we take most pride in are a Scottish Rite shoe drive to donate shoes to orphans and needy children as well as the Shriners’ Hospitals for Children. Of course, we could stop there. If your organization only has helping orphans, needy children and sick/disabled children to show for itself….well, it has a WHOLE lot. A child burned in a house fire doesn’t care what kind of events you have. He just wants the pain to stop… and we do everything we can to oblige.

But, the average person isn’t going to attend lodge every week because of something you do on the side. The health of the organization relies on much more than just helping children and doing good in the community. There are two things that Masonry has going against it. Number 1 is obviously the television. The television transformed family life. Instead of going out for entertainment, you just sat down and turned on the TV. There was a dual pronged attack that brought this about in the 1920s: the prohibition shuttered the taverns (where families gathered) and then TV started broadcasting in the late 20s. Of course, radio occupied that spot until TV became mature enough to take over.

The number 2 thing that Freemasonry has going against it is rapid growth after the world wars. People would sit around arguing philosophy in the lodge and that could have continued unabated, but there was such an influx of people that were not philosophically inclined already that it overwhelmed the system. The system where young men would come in and learn from older men, established in business and the community, experienced a hiccup. Instead of being focused on intellectual discourse, it was much easier for Freemasonry to become more of a meeting place for fraternity and entertainment – where it was in direct competition with the television.

Of course, Freemasonry is largely attempting to correct that. The next generation coming in wants to examine life and  philosophy….why are we here? HOW can we be better men? WHAT is our place in the world? Freemasonry is once again becoming what it always was – not just a philanthropic organization…not just a place for potluck dinners… but a place where men can become better men… a place where you can explore the questions of life and spirituality within a brotherhood of men. This is not only what it must do, but it is also what it cannot afford not to do. Freemasonry must stand true to its roots. That is where the life is found.

 

Conservative Judaism

There are a lot of articles about the Pew study and Conservative Judaism. There are also a lot of articles about Conservative Judaism’s latest conference, such as this one.

I’ve made my thoughts on Conservative Judaism known before…that I think Conservative Judaism has its place in Judaism and should not allow itself to be eclipsed either by Modern Orthodoxy or the Reform movement. At times, I daven (pray) at the local Conservative synagogue. I immersed in the mikveh (ritual bath) there. Their members daven at our synagogue and our members daven there. It’s a tight knit fellowship.

However, it seems to me that Conservative Judaism has tried to fashion itself as a mixture of Orthodox and Reform in the past. It really doesn’t project an identity of its own, but rather sets itself in the middle of the other two movements. So, the children grow up and they go where they lean – whether it be Orthodox or Reform. There doesn’t appear to be a real flavor that will keep them Conservative.

Of course, those could just be my limited perceptions. But, I hope some good came out of the conference. I hope Conservative Judaism really defines itself and speaks up with its own voice in the future…so it has a long and prosperous future. When I underwent our synagogue’s year long conversion process, one of the books I was assigned to read was Harold Kushner’s “To Life” (L’Chaim). He’s a well-known Conservative who spoke at this convention. I couldn’t help but think “This man gets ME” when I read his book. Judaism is a multi-faceted jewel. The Orthodox, Conservative and Reform facets all shine brightly and provide illumination in my own life as well as countless other Jews. I would hate to see any part of that jewel go dim.