A rabbi from Alpine last week hosted a cardinal from Basel in a program held in Rome funded by an Englewood-based philanthropy.
On Wednesday, May 16, the rabbi, Jack Bemporad, invited the cardinal, Kurt Koch, to present the prestigious John Paul II Honorary Lecture in Interreligious Dialogue at the Angelicum, the more popular name for the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. A pontifical university is one under the direct control of the Vatican.
Bemporad is director of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue. The Bergen County resident is also the executive director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding (http://www.faithindialogue.com) in Englewood, and the scholar-in-residence at Chavurah Beth Shalom in Alpine. He teaches an annual course in Judaism to seminarians at the Angelicum.
Even as Kurt Cardinal Koch was delivering the annual John Paul II Honorary Lecture in Interreligious Dialogue at the Angelicum in Rome, members of the Society of St. Pius X, the traditionalist Catholic breakaway group that the Vatican seeks to bring back into the fold, were delivering quite a different message.
Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general and one of the bishops of the Society of St. Pius X, said the relationship between Jews and Christians is a fundamentally antagonistic one. Jews, he said, were at fault for the Holocaust. He did not attribute such an attitude to “every Jew, as a people,” but to “the religion, Judaism, which is something different.”
In March 1911, in Kiev, a 13-year-old Christian youth, Andrei Yushchinsky, was kidnapped and murdered. On July 11, 1911, a Jewish man, Menachem Mendel Beilis, was arrested for the crime, which was touted in the czarist-controlled media as a Jewish ritual murder. It was a classic case of the blood libel. A Kiev police detective investigating the case, Nikolai Krasovsky, did not believe that Beilis was guilty. It cost him his career, but even after being fired, he continued his investigations. One hundred years ago next week, on May 30-31, 1912, his findings — including naming the real killers — were published in Kiev newspapers. Nevertheless, Beilis was brought to trial on Sept. 25, 1913. The case, which lasted just over a month, had international news coverage, shining a world spotlight on anti-Semitism in the Russian empire. For many, it gave the czarist government a black eye and helped to spur the exodus of Jews from Eastern Europe. In the end, despite the efforts of the Kiev prosecutors, a jury acquitted Beilis after a few hours of deliberation.
The Beilis case unfolded in a climate of change in the United States and Europe.
Jews in the United States in the early part of the 20th century were energized by the promise of the good life in “the golden land,” but at the same time aware of anti-Semitism, said Eli Faber, John Jay College professor emeritus specializing in Jewish American history.
In those years, young Jews were beginning to go to college and enter the professions. There was a movement away from the Lower East Side. The Yiddish press was vibrant. Yiddish newspapers were not “Jewish” newspapers, meaning newspapers filled with Jewish content. They were general circulation newspapers like the New York Herald, but written in a language other than English (in this case, Yiddish). Among readers of these newspapers there was a “sharp and keen interest in what was going on in America and in the world,” Faber said.
“Blood Libel: The Life and Memory of Mendel Beilis,” includes a discussion concerning the connection between the Beilis case and the novel “The Fixer,” the 1966 Pulitzer Prize winner by Bernard Malamud. The discussion is based on a 2010 article written by Jay Beilis, Jeremy Simcha Garber and Mark S. Stein that appeared in the Benjamin Cardozo Law School review, DeNovo.
The Malamud plot involves the character Yakov Bok, accused of murder in Kiev in the same time period in which the real Beilis case unfolded. As part of the revised Beilis memoir, the editors include numerous instances of what they allege is plagiarism by Malamud.
Two other cases in the public eye frame the Mendel Beilis case — “frame” being the key word in more than one sense.
In 1894, the French army officer Alfred Dreyfus, who was Jewish, was accused of treason by passing secrets to Germany. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on the harsh prison colony of Devil’s Island.
The Dreyfus conviction stood despite evidence pointing to another officer. Such notable writers as Émile Zola and others took up Dreyfus’ cause, even as others in French life on the right stood by his guilt.
Special to The Jewish Standard
Israel is famously known as a land of milk and honey, but it is hardly one that is flowing with water. For Israeli scientists today, maximizing water use is a key focus for research and innovation.
It may also be key to avoiding the regional war everyone says must happen some day — a war for water.
For the scientists, though, the main goal is finding ways to grow plentiful amounts of food in arid lands.
In the midst of harsh desert conditions in the Negev and the Arava, Israel’s long, eastern valley, Israeli researchers and farmers have created a flourishing network of high-tech agriculture. Tomatoes, peppers, olives, cheeses, and grapes blossom from arid land despite the fact that annual rainfall totals are measured in mere inches and the proximity to the Dead Sea produces groundwater that is highly saline.
Special to The Jewish Standard
A university president is not often expected to be an expert on military security. For Rivka Carmi, president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, however, protecting close to 20,000 students on the school’s main Beersheva campus from rocket attacks has become a top priority.
“For many years, we presented ourselves as the safest place in Israel,” says Carmi. “Most wars were in the north. Operation Cast Lead changed all that. Now we are a real front.”
At a meeting this past spring with journalists from the United States, issues of security were front and center, as a barrage of over 100 rockets fired from nearby Gaza in retaliation for the killing of a terrorist leader caused the administration to cancel all classes and exams. Iron Dome, Israel’s mobile air defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and shells, demolished most of the rockets.