N.Y. Archbishop Urges Parish Priests to Light Candles for Soviet Jews on Eve of Reagan-gorbachev Mee
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N.Y. Archbishop Urges Parish Priests to Light Candles for Soviet Jews on Eve of Reagan-gorbachev Mee

John Cardinal O’Connor has written a letter to all parish priests of the Archdiocese of New York urging them to light a candle for Soviet Jews on the eve of the summit meeting next week between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Recalling paragraph four of the Second Vatican Council’s document Nostra Aetate, which deplored persecution and anti-Semitism, the Cardinal wrote to the 450 parish priests of the Archdiocese, “In this spirit of Christian charity, I ask you and your parishes to observe November 18 as a day of remembrance for persecuted Jews.

“I ask you and your parishioners to light a candle on the evening of the 18th to pray for world peace and the release of Soviet Jewish prisoners,” O’Connor wrote in the letter dated November 5. A copy of the letter was provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency by Rabbi Allan Meyerowitz, Soviet Jewry chairman of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative Rabbis.

Meyerowitz said today that the letter was in reaction to an appeal last month by the RA to O’Connor that the Archdiocese, which represents some two million Catholics in New York, make some sort of public gesture on behalf of Soviet Jews. Meyerowitz said similar action involving Archdioceses in other cities was underway.


The Cardinal, in his letter, noted that he was “quite moved” on the issue of Soviet Jews last month when he spoke at a day-long conference at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, sponsored by the RA. At that conference, O’Connor recalled in the letter, “a Jewish seminarian, Leonard Feldman, spoke vividly about his experience in his native land, the Soviet Union.

“Leonard recounted how his countrymen persecuted him and his family as well as other Soviet Jews. I was quite moved by Leonard Feldman’s account of what it meant to be a Jew in the Soviet Union,” O’Connor wrote. Feldman was a refusenik who now studies at the JTS.

Meyerowitz, meanwhile, announced that local rabbis will stage civil disobedience and protest demonstrations on behalf of Soviet Jewry outside the Soviet Embassy in Washington next Sunday; in San Francisco, November 18, outside the Soviet Consulate; and in New York November 19 at the Soviet Mission to the United Nations.

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