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Union of Orthodox Rabbis Against Jews Meeting Pope

September 4, 1987
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The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Thursday that it strongly opposed any meeting of Jewish leaders with the Pope in Rome and in Miami next week. The Union’s director, Rabbi Hersh Ginsberg, emphasized that they are opposed to Jews meeting with the head of the Catholic Church at any time. Ginsberg explained that their reason is halachic and not political.

Ginsberg said that the Union had contacted the Rabbinical Council of America prior to the visit of Jewish leaders with Pope John Paul II and advised them not to send anyone to Rome. He said the Union hadn’t come out with a statement at the time because they had felt that personal contact would be strong enough. “Because they didn’t listen,” said Ginsberg, “the Union is now issuing a public statement.”

Ginsberg said the Union, the oldest rabbinical organization in the U.S., founded in 1900, bases its decision on a response by the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, printed in Egroth Moshe, Yorah Deah, Vol. 3, Response No. 43. He said the response was written in 1964 to Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik of Boston, at a time when Jewish leaders wanted to go to Rome to talk to Pope John XXIII.

Feinstein’s response stipulates specifically that according to Jewish law, it is strictly prohibited to meet with the head of the Church. Feinstein mentions the Pope specifically, Ginsberg said. He added that this response includes even social meetings, because this is considered as leading to “avodah zorah,” idol worship.

Ginsberg emphasized that “we are not taking any revenge on anyone, like Waldheim. This is a strictly halachic response.”

Ginsberg said the Union had come out with a very strong statement against condemning the Pope, “because we felt this is pikuach nefesh (healing).” He said they felt such condemnation “could cause anti-Semitism, could cause revenge by Gentiles against Jews, and we believe in living on very good terms with the Gentiles. We would not insult or abuse the Pope. We just go according to the halacha, which does not permit either dialogue or social meetings with the Pope.”

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