Skip to comments.A Jew For All Seasons (Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Haifa, Israel)
Posted on 10/06/2008 10:13:56 AM PDT by NYer
“I don't divide Jews into religious and secular, to me, they are all Jews.”
Who said that? Mel Gibson? Nope. This statement is actually from the history making Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Haifa, Israel. Cohen is history making because tomorrow afternoon Cohen will become the first non-Christian to address a synod of bishops. That synod, of course, is the synod on the Bible and Cohen will be discussing how Christians understand Jewish scriptures.
In his piece at NCR entitled "Synod: A Rabbi, a Jesuit and the Pope walk into a bar …", John Allen Jr tells us that Cohen isn't unaccustomed to history as he been there for quite a bit of it.
Born in Jerusalem in 1927 as the son of a famed rabbi, the young Cohen grew up in an intensely religious milieu. As a child he was a “nazirite,” meaning that he took vows never to cut his hair or beard, not to drink wine or eat grapes, and not to attend funerals. At age 16 he was released from those promises, but he remains a strict vegetarian.While I am sure that some of the same reactionary folks who think 9/11 was an inside job will consider Rabbi Cohen's address as a sign of something sinister involving the masons, I think it is very interesting and should be very enlightening. I hope to be able to find the Rabbi's remarks in English online.
The young Cohen also became active in the push for Israeli statehood. He joined a group linked to the Irgun, an armed group demanding a Jewish state. During the fighting that surrounded recognition of the nation of Israel in 1948, in which Jewish forces lost control of the Old City in Jerusalem, Cohen was wounded in the leg and spent time in a prisoner of war camp in Jordan.
“I still remember the day the British left the Old City,” Cohen recalled in a 2007 interview with the Jerusalem Post. “From our outposts, we heard Scottish bagpipes playing and the marching of many soldiers on the cobblestones gradually fading away. We realized we were on our own.”
Cohen has a high profile in Israel, having served both as the country’s Chief Rabbi and as Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. He was serving in the latter capacity in 1967, when the Six-Day War broke out and Israeli troops recaptured the Old City.
“I had come full circle,” Cohen recalled. “I was the last Jew to leave the Old City of Jerusalem after it fell, and the first to return.”
Cohen heads the Ariel Institute, which trains local rabbis to act as communal leaders and also prepares rabbis to serve in Jewish communities abroad. He has served as Chief Rabbi of Haifa since 1975.
Cohen is also a veteran of Jewish-Catholic relations. Since 2002, the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, has organized a formal dialogue with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Cohen has led the Jewish delegation in those sessions.
At this hour, the Synod is still being led by the afternoon-long presentation of the chief rabbi of Haifa Shear-Yashuv Cohen -- the first Jewish speaker ever to address the body.
Yet with the gathering convening in the run-up to Thursday's 50th anniversary of the death of Pope Pius XII -- a milestone that, this year, just so happens to coincide with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and Judaism's most sacrosanct observance -- Cohen said in an interview published this morning that, had he known of the confluence, he mightn't have come:
"We feel that the late pope (Pius) should have spoken up much more strongly than he did," Cohen, 80, said in an interview hours before he was due to address the gathering of Catholic bishops from around the world.The Pope will celebrate a memorial Mass for his wartime predecessor in St Peter's on Thursday's anniversary.
Cohen said that in his speech he planned to make an indirect reference to Jewish disappointment about Pius as well as an appeal to all religious leaders to denounce Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Last month Pope Benedict forcefully defended Pius, saying he "spared no effort" on behalf of Jews during World War II.
Some Jews maintain Pius did not do enough to save Jews while the Vatican says he worked behind the scenes to help because more direct intervention would have worsened the situation.
"He may have helped in secrecy many of the victims and many of the refugees but the question is 'could he have raised his voice and would it have helped or not?'" Cohen said.
"We, as the victims, feel yes. I am not empowered by the families of the millions of deceased to say 'we forget, we forgive,'" said Cohen, who is chief rabbi of Haifa in Israel....
"I did not know (the anniversary commemorations) happened during the same meeting. If I had known ... I might have refrained from coming because we feel that the pain is still here," Cohen said.
"I have to make it very clear that we, the rabbis, the leadership of the Jewish people, cannot as long as the survivors still feel painful agree that this leader of the Church in a time of crisis should be honored now. It is not our decision. It pains us. We are sorry it is being done," he said.
Cohen said only God knows if Pius spoke out enough against the Holocaust: "God is the judge ... he knows the truth."
And at his turn in the Aula, Cohen followed through with the (unscripted) repeat of his wire comments:
We cannot forget the sad and painful fact of how many, including great religious leaders, didnt raise a voice in the effort to save our brethren, but chose to keep silent and help secretly, said Cohen.PHOTO: Reuters
We cannot forgive and forget, and we hope you understand our pain, our sorrow, Cohen said, speaking to an audience of some 253 cardinals, archbishops and bishops, as well as Benedict XVI.
Cohen never mentioned Pius XII by name, though in context the reference was obvious....
Cohen also issued a biting, though once again indirect, swipe at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Cohen referred to the terrible and vicious words of the president of a certain state in the Middle East in a recent speech at the United Nations. Cohen said these false and malicious accusations, the threats and anti-Semitic incitement cannot help but remind Jews of the Holocaust....
Cohen called upon Catholic leaders to raise your voice, so together with the help of free world defend, we can protect and save Israel from the hands of our enemies.
What happened once should not happen again, Cohen said. My being here makes me feel that we can expect your help, and I am sure your message will be listened to by influential people all over the world.
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