January 18, 2005

For Pioneer in Jewish-Catholic Dialogue, a Day to Remember


Says Founder of Raoul Wallenberg International

ROME, JAN. 18, 2005 (Zenit.org).- For Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the Raoul Wallenberg International Foundation, and one of the pioneers of the dialogue between Jews and Catholics, this was a historic day.

For the first time, a Pope, John Paul II, received in private audience a group of some 160 rabbis and Jewish leaders and their relatives, who were in Rome to thank him for his contribution to the reconciliation between the children of Abraham, and to the struggle against anti-Semitism.

The meeting commemorated the 40th anniversary this year of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration ”Nostra Aetate,” which marked a turn in Judeo-Christian dialogue.

Tenembaum was born in Argentina, in a settlement of Jewish immigrants who had fled the 1880 pogroms in Russia.

In a telephone statement to ZENIT, he expressed his emotion to see the great progress in Jewish-Catholic relations, which he has been promoting with exponents of the Catholic Church in Argentina since he was a student in that country’s Rabbinical Seminary in the 1950s.

”Today’s meeting is exciting, as it makes one see how that idea, launched more than 50 years ago, has been very successful,” he said.

”The one who multiplied geometrically those initial efforts was Angelo Roncalli, the ‘Good Pope,’” who as John XXIII convoked Vatican II, he explained.

”I think it is an important day,” Tenembaum said.

He also found it significant that the Vatican decided to loan manuscripts of the great Jewish philosopher and rabbi Maimonides, who died in 1204, so that they can be exhibited in Israel’s Museum this spring.

”It is an opportunity for many people in the world to discover his legacy,” Tenembaum stressed.

To reveal the spirit with which he has promoted dialogue with Christians, Tenembaum believes that the key is ”friendship and love of neighbor.”

”The neighbor is the ‘next one,’ whom we feel is close to us,” he said. ”We think that when we approach someone, we can dialogue with him and alter the knowledge, the information that we had before.

”When dialoguing we wish to observe the best of the other. We want to ratify what the Creator willed and the gifts that the Creator has given each one. The Creator made us different and it was not by accident. Harmony means different voices that integrate in one expression.”

Tenembaum is convinced that many prejudices can be overcome with information, and mutual knowledge. ”The greatest enemy we have is ignorance and our greatest friend, truth,” he said.

The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation is preparing to launch a news bulletin in various languages. Those interested may apply for a subscription at irwf@irwf.org.ar.