A New President's Letter

Dear Friends: You have seen Rev. Dick Pruiksma’s report on our visit to the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. One of the positive outcomes of that visit was a mutual decision to work towards more dialogue with Orthodox Christian churches.

WCC staff member Father Daniel Buda has been chosen to be their coordinator for these efforts. From our side, we are delighted to report that Rev. Dr. Demetrios E. Tonias, of Massachusetts, has agreed to be our “point person” on these issues. Father Demetrios did and does research on Jewish-Christian relations from an Orthodox Christian perspective.  We hope that this will be one important piece of a multi-layered cooperation between our two organizations.

Speaking of Orthodox Christians, our Hebrew-speaking friend Sandrine Caneri is visiting here from France.  Over the period of the Jewish festivals, I saw her a lot in our synagogue (more than some of the Jewish congregants!)

This has not been an easy season for those of us involved in inter-religious relations. Violence continues, antisemitism continues, and the Council of Europe just passed an anti-ritual circumcision resolution.  There is often so much to protest that one doesn’t know where to begin. Therefore, I wanted to share with you an experience I had today that is definitely a point of light amidst, in Paul McCartney’s apt phrase, “the darkness that surrounds us.”

I went to Yad Vashem today, without a group, just to visit the new temporary exhibition, “I Am My Brother’s Keeper, “that marks 50 years of honoring the Righteous Among the Nations.  I have always felt that these amazing human beings deserve a more central place in the story of the Holocaust. I recommend this exhibit and, if any of you will be in Jerusalem in the next few months, you should go to Yad Vashem to see it, even if you’ve been there many times before (like me.) They don’t know yet how long it will be there, but certainly a few months, at least. I spent almost a full hour there.

The main part of the exhibit is five video presentations, illuminating five different aspects of the rescue work done by the almost 25,000 people who have already been recognized as Righteous. The first one is called “Under the Wings of the Church,” and focuses on the Catholic Church in Italy, in which many Jews were hidden in convents and monasteries.  But it also mentions Protestants and Orthodox Christians, who risked their lives to save Jews.  Of course, among the rescuers were also Muslims, atheists and agnostics.  They were all incredibly decent, caring people. If we could just discover what motivated them and bottle it!

Our member organizations throughout the world continue their blessed work. Just last week, 35 folks from Australia and New Zealand met in Brisbane to discuss “Engaging the Other.” We have received a very positive report on the conference from Exbo member Prof. Michael Trainor.  I wish all of you continued success in your efforts—Debbie Weissman, Jerusalem