Catholic-Jewish gathering remembers Kristallnacht, addresses recent violence in Holy Land

It was on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when members of the Nazi party sponsored anti-Jewish riots (pogroms) which attacked Jewish persons and destroyed Jewish owned property in Germany and Austria. Known as “Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass,” this event is regarded by historians as “the Night the Holocaust began” in Europe, which ultimately led to the murder of more than six million Jews.

To remember those events and to stand united in saying “Always Remember!” “Never Forget!” and “Never Again!” the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County hosted its 20th annual “Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass” on Nov. 5, 2023, at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Naples. The event was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, GenShoah of SWFL, and the Holocaust Museum and Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center.

On behalf of the Diocese, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said it is necessary to come together to remember Kristallnacht and the Holocaust which followed, but the commemoration takes place in a global context. This is as the world witnesses the contemporary events of the Oct. 7 terror attacks by Hamas on Israeli citizens, as well as an alarming rise of anti-Semitism nationally and within the Diocese of Venice.

“In the present global setting, dialogue, diplomacy, and reaching understanding are more difficult and yet ever more needed,” Bishop Dewane said. “Finding receptive ears that listen to the voices that express nuanced perspective, however, is a challenge. The present circumstances give possible rise to disagreements between Catholics and Jews if we are not careful and attentive.”

With its purpose to engage Jews and Catholics in understanding their past history and advancing the causes of mutual understanding and appreciation of their differences as well as their commonalities, Bishop Dewane praised the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue and its important work.

Bishop Dewane stressed how Pope Francis, a lifelong promoter of Catholic-Jewish relations, immediately and unequivocally condemned Hamas’ Oct. 7 brutal violence, and called for the immediate release of hostages, and further supported Israel’s right to self-defense.

“We must all pray that world leaders find just solutions that lead to peace,” Bishop Dewane said. “There is a futility of war. It has no victors, only victims. We must all pursue the gift of peace by any means possible.”

Further, the Bishop said it is not in anyone’s interest to allow the forces of violence and hatred to ignite resentment among people of faith and silence the moral voice of religion.

“The spiritual bonds that unite us through the One True God must be observed. It must allow us to speak candidly to one another, and to stand together for justice, peace, and freedom of humankind,” the Bishop concluded.

Nearly 1,000 attended the commemoration, which included calls for peace and unity among the people of the world. There were also prayers for the victims of the Holocaust and Oct. 7 attacks, as well as for all who are subjected to religious persecution.

A poignant moment during the annual commemoration was a candle lighting ceremony. Six candles were lit by Gen Shoah (second and third generation Holocaust survivors). Each lit their candle for the victims of the Holocaust and for a brighter future. A seventh candle was lit for the victims of the Oct. 7 terror attacks.

In addition, Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer, of Bat Yam Temple of the Islands in Sanibel, shared the story of how the Torah – the books of the Hebrew Bible – was a survivor of the Holocaust from the present-day Czech Republic, and was then spared damage during Hurricane Ian in September 2022 when the island and temple were flooded.

The event’s keynote was by Rabbi David Maayan, assistant director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in Tampa. The topic: “Theologies of the ‘Other’: Catholics and Jews After the Holocaust.”

The commemoration concluded with the singing of “God Bless America,” and Bishop Dewane leading everyone in a moment of silence for peace.

Among the dignitaries participating in the commemoration were, Michael A. Feldman, co-founder of the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida; Dr. Nat Ritter, Board Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples; Marty Gauthier, Dialogue Catholic co-chair; Yvonne Holtzman, Dialogue Jewish co-chair and member of Gen Shoah; Rabbi Ariel Boxman of Temple Shalom; Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer, Bat Yam Temple of the Islands; Shelley Lieb, co-chair of Gen Shoah; Rabbi Adam Miller, Temple Shalom; Rabbi Ammos Chorny, Beth Tikvah; Father Robert Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples; Father Robert Garrity, of Ave Maria University; and Father Casey Jones, Pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton, the host Parish. Also present were more than two dozen youth who are in the Confirmation program at St. Agnes Parish.

Catholic-Jewish gathering remembers start of Holocaust

It was on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938, when members of the Nazi party sponsored anti-Jewish riots (pogroms) which attacked Jewish persons and destroyed Jewish owned property in Germany and Austria. “Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass” is regarded by historians as “the Night the Holocaust began” in Europe, which ultimately led to the murder of more than six million Jews.

To remember those events, the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County hosted its annual “Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass” Nov. 5, 2022, at Temple Shalom in Naples. The event was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples, GenShoah of SWFL, and the Holocaust Museum and Janet G. and Harvey D. Cohen Education Center.

On behalf of the Diocese, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said it is necessary to come together to remember Kristallnacht and the Holocaust which followed. But this year’s gathering was held in the context of a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents including the placing of lawn signs in communities throughout Naples, Collier County and the entire Diocese of Venice.

“Unfortunately, we need to acknowledge this inhumane unchristian rebirth that we have evidenced in Southwest Florida – of anti-Semitism,” Bishop Dewane said.

The Bishop said Catholic and Jewish peoples have a common parentage which bond the two together. The coming together through the Dialogue allows for open discussion which ultimately prevents misunderstandings and mistrust, fostering a way for the two faiths to see each other with a deep amount of respect.

“Each one of us has a responsibility to take action when we see anti-Semitism,” Bishop Dewane continued. “It isn’t just for the Dialogue group to resolve. It isn’t just for a Parish or synagogue. It’s for all of us to come together when we see the negativity that can rears its head, just as it did so many years ago when Kristallnacht foreshadowed what the world never thought could happen (the Holocaust) – and it did happen. You and I have responsibilities to speak out and to speak up.”

The guest speaker was Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Director of the International Academics Programs Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and her topic was “November 1938: Perspective from the Vatican Archives.”

In her talk, focused on the month following Kristallnacht, Brown-Fleming said a certain context was needed, reminding the audience that the groundbreaking 1965 Vatican II document Nostra Aetate (In Our Time), which redefined the relationship between the Church and other non-Christian faiths, was years away. Nostra Aetate importantly states that what happened in the Passion of Christ “cannot be charged against the Jews then alive, nor against the Jews today.”

Brown-Fleming cited several diplomatic and personal reports sent to and from the Vatican regarding Kristallnacht as well as correspondence from the faithful, who were almost all blatantly anti-Semitic, blaming the Jewish people for the death of Christ, and because of this, saw little reason to help the Jews in Germany or elsewhere.

In the end, Brown-Fleming said the Vatican was “not willing to aggressively condemn the Nazi action against the Jews, but only to authorize on behalf of the Pope a reminder of the Church of the mission to aid the suffering and the persecuted. It is quite an understatement to say this response in these troubling times was not enough.” She noted much has changed since Nostra Aetate.

A poignant moment during the annual commemoration was a candle lighting ceremony. Six candles were lit by Gen Shoah (second generation Holocaust survivors). Each lit their candle for the victims of the Holocaust and for a brighter future.

Among the dignitaries present for the commemoration were, Michael A. Feldman, co-founder of the Holocaust Museum of Southwest Florida; Rabbi Adam Miller, Temple Shalom; Jane Schiff, Board Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Naples; Marty Gauthier, Dialogue Catholic co-chair; Luba Rotsztain, Dialogue Jewish co-chair; Rabbi Mark Gross, Jewish Congregation of Marco Island; Rabbi Ammos Chorny, Beth Tikvah; Father Robert Kantor, Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples; and Yvonne Holtzman, Candle Lighting Chair, Dialogue member and Gen Shoah. Also present were more than two dozen youth who are in the Confirmation program at St. Agnes Parish.

The Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County has been working together for 21 years with the purpose of engaging Catholics and Jews in understanding our past history and advancing the cause of mutual understanding and appreciation of our differences, as well as our commonalities.

Catholic-Jewish gathering commemorates start of Holocaust

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic

This year marks the 81st anniversary of “Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass.” It was on the night of Nov. 9, 1938, when members of the Nazi party attacked Jewish persons and destroyed Jewish owned property in Germany and Austria. Kristallnacht is generally regarded as the beginning of the Holocaust in Europe which ultimately led to the murder of more than six million Jews.

To commemorate those events, the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue of Collier County hosted its annual “Kristallnacht: The Night of Broken Glass” Nov. 17 at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Naples. The event, now in its 16th year, was co-sponsored by the Diocese of Venice and Jewish Federation of Greater Naples.

On behalf of the Diocese, Bishop Frank J. Dewane said that while Kristallnacht may seem like the distant past, the threat remains. Bishop Dewane quoted Pope Francis who recently expressed his concern about reports of escalating anti-Semitic violence around the world, even in the United States, including acts of vandalism.

“It is as if we are beginning again and that some glass might be shattering,” the Bishop continued. “We gather so the past is not forgotten or still worse allowed to be denied by some. We gather to remember the lives, the human beings, that were lost to the senselessness that occurred. Inhumane violence of another time. In so doing, we strive to prevent, by our gathering, the recurrence of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust.”

The keynote speaker was Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands on Sanibel. Rabbi Fuchs’ spoke about his father, a victim of Kristallnacht who was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. He was fortunate to have escaped with his life, unlike the more than six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.

“We cannot undo the past,” Rabbi Fuchs said. “The future is ours to share. What kind of future will it be? The answer is in our hands.”

In a moving tribute, survivors of the Holocaust lit candles in honor of those Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust. A candle was also lit by second- and third-generation survivors. The candles served as a symbolic commitment that those in attendance are responsible for one another and there is no room in the world for hatred. And to say “Never Again!”

Hour of Remembrance reflects on Holocaust

Bob Reddy – Florida Catholic
Many people in the United States observe Yom HaShoah, which is also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It commemorates the lives and heroism of the Jewish people who were slaughtered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.

Here in the Diocese of Venice, Bishop Frank J. Dewane hosts an annual interreligious gathering of Yom HaShoah: An Hour of Remembrance. This year the event was held on April 15 at Epiphany Cathedral, Venice, just a few days after April 11, the traditional Remembrance Day.

The powerful hour includes a symbolic reading the names of infamous concentration camps, a moment of silence, the lighting of 13 memorial candles, a guest speaker, presentations, music, and the commissioning of high school students to be a continuing voice for those lost in Holocaust.

Afterwards the guests went to a reception in the Parish Hall where there were also displays of research projects done by middle schoolers from Epiphany Cathedral and St. Martha Catholic schools. These covered topics of research on the stories of those whose lives were taken too soon, or of the incredible story of survivors.

Lisa Arnold said she had never been to a Holocaust Remembrance at a Catholic Church before and was impressed by the entire commemoration. “Millions were lost, but people forget. They forget the voices that were silenced. It is so good for us all to remember such a terrible time in the world. It can never happen again.”

Bishop Dewane spoke briefly about the need for such gatherings which bring together members of the Catholic and Jewish communities to recommit to the promotion of peace and solidarity among all peoples.

Using the example of a recent poll, the Bishop noted that two-thirds of American millennials (18-34), and 41 percent of adults as a whole, cannot identify what Auschwitz is. Another 22 percent of millennials said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust or are not sure whether they’ve heard of it. The numbers are discouraging, meaning the Holocaust is starting to fade for the collective memory.

“As generations inevitably die off, it is our responsibility to continue to raise awareness and that task has become ever greater,” Bishop Dewane continued. “Unless we do something and say something, those numbers will continue to rise and history will be repeated.”

One way to help avoid this is the ongoing effort of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese to have comprehensive program to educate middle and high school students on the Holocaust through various means, explained Dr. Kristy Swol, Diocese Director of Education. “It is hoped that by learning about the Holocaust, they learn about the past and also how to protect the future,” Swol concluded.

This year the featured guest speaker Auxiliary Bishop James Massa of Diocese of Brooklyn, and past-Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue and later Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and a member of the Joint Working Group between the Holy See and the World Council of Churches.

Bishop Massa spoke about the need to properly develop one’s conscience to respond to injustices such as the Holocaust. Using the example of the White Rose Society, a group of university students who were publicly against the atrocities that the Nazi regime and did so by distributing leaflets at their school and throughout Munich, Germany in early 1943.

Bishop Massa noted that the courage of the group, of whom the most well-known being Sophie Scholl, is remembered for appealing to the conscience of their countryman. Sadly, for their actions, Sophie and others were executed by guillotine. Today they stand as martyrs who show that conscience really is essential in opposing evil and restoring justice in the world.

“Interfaith dialogue has among its great truths, the belief that we can share the richness of our respective traditions and strengthen our own identity within our own tradition,” Bishop Massa stressed. “Christians and Jews need one another. And together we need the followers of the world’s great religions to plant new seeds of interreligious understanding so that the soil of the 21st Century leaves no room for violence to sow. Heart must speak to heart. That is what we need today; to enter the conscience. Why do we do this? So that the world might be healed.”

X