The Rabbi and the Friar

Oct. 28 2014

David Blumenthal, an Orthodox rabbi and professor of Jewish studies, developed a close and lasting friendship with the late Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan friar. Blumenthal writes:

Father Groeschel, whose death we all mourn, lived at Trinity House in Larchmont, New York, a hundred yards from my late mother-in-law. Coming from Cologne, Germany, where Jews had good relationships with the Catholic Church, my late mother-in-law chose to continue that tradition. Whenever she cooked for the Jewish holidays, a portion was sent down the block to Fr. Benedict. Whenever objects had to be disposed of, they went to Fr. Benedict. In this way, everything, from used clothing to used cars, was recycled to the poor through Fr. Benedict. We always visited him on the days before Christmas with our children. Our youngest son came out of Trinity House after a pre-Christmas visit and remarked, “It must be great to have so many brothers.” Another son went with him to distribute Thanksgiving Day meals to the poor. They made quite a picture, the friar in his habit and the young Orthodox Jewish boy in his head-covering distributing non-kosher meals to the poor on Thanksgiving Day.

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More about: Jewish-Catholic relations, Jewish-Christian relations, Monasticism

 

How Israel Can Best Benefit from Its Newfound Friendship with Brazil

Jan. 21 2019

Earlier this month, Benjamin Netanyahu was in Brazil—the first Israeli prime minister to visit the country—for the inauguration of its controversial new president Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made clear his eagerness to break with his predecessors’ hostility toward the Jewish state, and Netanyahu has responded positively. To Emanuele Ottolenghi, the improved relations offer an opportunity for joint cooperation against Hizballah, which gets much of its revenue through cooperation with Brazilian drug cartels. In this cooperative effort, Ottolenghi cautions against repeating mistakes made in an earlier outreach to Paraguay:

Hizballah relies heavily on the proceeds of transnational crime networks, especially in the Tri-Border Area [where] Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay [meet], but until recently, Brazilian officials were loath to acknowledge its presence in their country or its involvement in organized crime. [But] Bolsonaro’s top priority is fighting organized crime. Combating Hizballah’s terror finance is a vital Israeli interest. Making the case that Israel’s and Brazil’s interests dovetail perfectly should be easy. . . .

But Israel should be careful not to prioritize symbols over substance, a mistake already made once in Latin America. During 2013-2018, Netanyahu invested heavily in his relationship with Horacio Cartes, then president of Paraguay. Cartes, . . . too, had a genuine warmth for Israel, which culminated in his decision in May 2018 to move Paraguay’s embassy to Jerusalem. Most importantly, from Israel’s point of view, Paraguay began voting with Israel against the Arab bloc at the UN.

However, the Paraguayan side of the Tri-Border Area remained ground zero for Hizballah’s money laundering in Latin America. The Cartes administration hardly lifted a finger to act against the terror funding networks. . . . Worse—when critics raised Hizballah’s [local] terror-financing activities, Paraguayan ministers confronted their Israeli counterparts, threatening to change Paraguay’s friendly international posture toward Israel. [And] as soon as Cartes left office, his successor, Mario Abdo Benítez, moved Paraguay’s embassy back to Tel Aviv. . . . Israel’s five-year investment ultimately yielded no embassy move and no progress on combating Hizballah’s terror network. . . .

Israel should make the battle against Hizballah’s terror-finance networks in Latin America its top regional priority.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Brazil, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Latin America