Jewish Groups to Stage Protests During Pope’s San Francisco Visit
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Jewish Groups to Stage Protests During Pope’s San Francisco Visit

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Bay Area Jewish groups began making plans this week to greet Pope John Paul II’s visit to San Francisco on September 17 with an array of protests–everything from teach-ins to public demonstrations.

The reaction comes in response to the June 25 meeting between the Pope and Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who is accused of Nazi war crimes.

One of the Jewish contingents involved in the protests — editors of the national progressive magazine Tikkun — will give the Bay Area a preview of its plans this week when it pickets a fund-raising reception for the Pope being held Thursday evening at the home of Mayor Dianne Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum.

Although several prominent members of the local Jewish community are supporting the reception, which is being held on behalf of the Archdiocese of Sand Francisco, the publisher of the Oakland-based magazine, Michael Lerner, said: “We are outraged that a Jewish Mayor, who claims to represent, in part, the cares and concerns of the Jewish people, would be raising money for the Pope.”

Tikkun also is calling for a national demonstration during the Pope’s U.S. visit September 11-18, including a local demonstration to coincide with the Pope’s.


Meanwhile, other local Jewish groups are advocating a lower-key response to the Waldheim affair. They include:

The Committee of Remembrance of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, which is recommending a “dignified silence” while the Pope is here, according to chairman William Lowenberg.

The JCRC itself, which will consider adopting a similar position when representatives of its constituent agencies discuss the papal visit next month.

The Graduate Theological Union (GTU), a consortium of seminaries in Berkeley, Calif., which will hold a public forum on Jewish-Christian relations September 16 to be attended by a number of leading Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars.

In the last week, local Jewish leaders have voiced their concerns about the Waldheim-Pope meeting to the Most Rev. John Quinn, Archbishop of San Francisco, and to the Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C.

Others have made more personal statements. Henry Berman, a San Franciscan who is active in both the Jewish community and local polities, has declined to serve on the Mayor’s official Papal welcoming committee because of the meeting.

Joel Brooks, local executive director of the American Jewish Congress, whose national officers pulled out of a planned September 11 meeting between the Pope and Jewish leaders in Miami, said that while Feinstein may be obligated to help sponsor the Pope’s visit, “no self-respecting Jew should aid in this effort by contributing funds to this cause.”

Brooks suggested that Jews who are paying $250 to attend Thursday’s reception by the May-or should “contribute an equal or greater amount to an organization dedicated to assisting victims of the Holocaust.”

Lerner of Tikkun said he is outraged that prominent Jews are helping to pay for the Pope’s San Francisco visit. He called that support “the ultimate in self-abasement.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a group of rabbis and Jewish leaders is considering boycotting an interfaith meeting with the Pope September 16.

It is estimated that the Papal visit to nine U.S. cities will cost approximately $20 million, with the San Francisco leg estimated at about $3.3 million. Proceeds from the Mayor’s fund-raising reception, for which 1,000 invitations were sent out, will go directly to the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The September 17 Tikkun demonstration is scheduled to be held outside St. Mary’s Cathedral here, where the Pope is scheduled to visit. The teach-in will follow, according to Lerner, at a yet-to-be-determined location.

He added that his group also would like to hold a vigil at the city’s monument to the Holocaust in Lincoln Park “at the same time the Pope leads mass at Candlestick Park.”

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