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

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy