Monday, May 11, 2009

Serious advice for the Pope on Jewish-Catholic relations

It seems like the Pope just can't get favorable coverage in the Holy Land, no matter what he does.

For example, Pope Benedict XVI’s speech at Yad Vashem was described in an Israeli newspaper today as lukewarm. He disappointed the staff of Yad Vashem and Holocaust survivors by his use of mild terminology and not apologizing for German atrocities. (He is German born and had to join the Hitler Youth and the German Air Force)

However, the Pope’s personal history with Nazism or his almost reinstatement of a Holocaust denying priest is really not what’s at issue here. Nor is his speech that probably needed a better editor or two.

The issue is in order to have complete reconciliation, you need to have truth.

And Jews simply do not have that yet from the Vatican.

Pope Benedict must authorize the release of Vatican archives from the time of Pope Pius XII, no matter what their contents or how unflattering they are. Those documents then need to be put into context of the Vatican’s power or lack of power during WWII and the antisemitism that led to the Church’s probable complicity during the war. Just as priests, nuns and other Catholics who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust have been recognized as “Righteous Gentiles” by the state of Israel, in order to heal, the negative parts of the story must be known.

Considering the scales of the atrocities, German-Jewish relations are good. Why? The Nazi documentation as it pertained to the so called “Final Solution” has been accessible to historians since shortly after the war. Although the relationship isn’t perfect, when a German leader visits Israel, he/she is not criticized about the Holocaust as the Pope has been during his visit.

Until the archive is open, a full and robust relationship between Jews and the Church just won’t happen - no matter how much time passes. And if there is a desire to reconcile, the entire truth must be uncovered.

When it is, and after it is digested, and the apologies are made, anything the Pope says at Yad Vashem will be praised.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Top 10 things the Pope shouldn’t do when he is in the Holy Land

10. Remember the good old days of the Crusades.
9. When bored during meetings, doodle pictures of the prophet Muhammed.
8. Have an on-camera lunch with Bill Maher.
7. Eat too much falafel, fries, and hummus - that stuff packs on the pounds.
6. Take water from the Jordan River as a souvenir. He should have prayed harder for rain in the winter.
5. Visit the Temple Mount.
4. Wear a button with Pope Pius the XII's picture.
3. Hang out with any Hamas leader, unless the Pope Mobile is missile proof.
2. Bring up the year 1054 while in the Armenian Quarter. Can you say AWKWARD?
1. Mess with El Al during the security interview and say he didn’t pack his own bags.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Journalists post on Justin-Junich's wall

The definition of “what is news?” has changed. Everyone’s story can be a story; everyone’s death can be remembered and marked publicly; everyone’s disease can be empathized. The way in which we grieve and lament (and in turn console and comfort) has been remarkably altered in the past five years.

Social networking has also changed the way journalists do their reporting, but maybe it has gone too far.

Less than 24 hours (May 6) after Johanna Justin-Jinich was murdered, a Facebook group was established in her memory. Simultaneously, her story was being told on the news, because of her alleged on the loose killer with homicidal (some anti-Semitic) notes left in his hotel room. The publication led to the greater public joining the Facebook group to express their condolences, some inappropriate, so her Facebook friends shut the wall down at the request of her family.

Here is where the “new journalism” enters.

In addition to the strangers’ postings, reporters from three news organizations posted on the wall offering their condolences and numbers and emails in case someone wanted to talk to them about Johanna and her death.

For all of you who knew Johanna, I'm very sorry for your loss. My name is Rich Schapiro, and I'm a reporter for the NY Daily News. I'm working on a story about Johanna, and am hoping to speak to people who knew her. If you're feeling up to talk, please give me a call: 212-210-2147. Or, you can send along your number. I'd be happy to call you. Thanks very much.

An awful tragedy. The Associated Press has been covering the events in Middletown and is looking for more information about Johanna so we can tell her story to the world. Please e-mail or call 860-246-6876.

My colleague at the New York Times, Serge Kovaleski, is working on a story about Johanna and welcomes any information her friends may want to share. He can be reached at 212 556 1652 or at

What an interesting 21st century maneuver in reporting! Follow this: a tragedy happens, it is covered by the media, and simultaneously friends want to mourn publically, as the friends mourn publically, the media coverage draws strangers to the site of the public memorial (the Facebook wall) which is then used as a vehicle for reporters to further cover the story.

And now I’m writing about the journalists on my blog. All within 24 hours!

One might argue that the journalists are only doing their job; the Facebook group wall is just like interviewing one of Johanna’s classmates in the Wesleyan student union.

I disagree.

The Facebook group wall is too public for good sourcing and hence the reporting too lazy, not to mention too distasteful (but that might not matter anymore, I guess).

I only hope that her family members, if they want to, are allowed to mourn in private with the support of their community. There will be plenty of people who will want celebrity, and hopefully they will paint an accurate enough [for the journalist wall posters] picture of Johanna.

And that her murderer will be caught before he kills again.

update: they caught him.