The Shmooze

About Jews — In Cardinal O'Connor's Own Words

By Masha Leon

  • Print
  • Share Share

The revelation that John Cardinal O’Connor’s mother was Jewish (she converted to Catholicism) made me reach back to the many Jewish-focused addresses by the Cardinal at events at which he was either an honoree or keynote speaker. What struck me were the Cardinal’s passionate directives to his Jewish audiences.

A sampling:

At the April 1997 Anti-Defamation League Dinner at the New York Hilton at which the Cardinal was presented with its “America’s Democratic Legacy” Award, ADL national director Abe Foxman opened with: “The Jews of New York City are under the watchful eyes of a courageous voice.” Foxman told the audience which included two Jewish New York mayors — Abe Beame and Ed Koch — “No one in the American-Catholic hierarchy is as sensitive and caring about the Jewish people as is his Eminence, the Cardinal.”

Ed Koch, Cardinal O’Connor, Abe Beame // Photo: Karen Leon

Award presenter — Rabbi Ronald Sobel, [then] senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, said: “Whenever there were manifestations of anti-Semitism, the Cardinal’s voice was heard…. He has received hate mail of which ‘Jew lover’ was the mildest. When President Ronald Reagan was going to meet Gorbachev, the Cardinal told him: ‘Mr. President, you cannot meet Gorby without making a strong case on behalf of Soviet Jewry.”

Pointing to his black and crimson garb, a cheery Cardinal said: “”Here are the reasons why I am dressed this way. One—this is the way I normally dress for a Catholic event. Two—always like to embarrass my good friend Rabbi Sobel by wearing a yarmulke (kipah) because he never wears one. Three — whenever I dress like this—the yield is an extra $500.” He concluded his address with: “Our work is still unfinished… I plead with you Jews to never forget who you are—your values, your roots. We are all in your debt [and] don’t be embarrassed to be Jews. Be proud!”

Karen Leon
Cardinal O’Connor, Masha Leon.

At the April 1999 Museum of Jewish Heritage dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria honoring Cardinal O’Connor, museum chairman Robert Morgenthau reflected on the Cardinal’s post Dachau visit vow: “’As long as I have breath in my life, I will do everything I possibly can to assure that it will never happen again.’”

At another event that year at which Cardinal read three of “Yaffa Eliach’s” haunting “Hassidic Tales of the Holocaust” his charge was: “I ask those of you who are Jewish, you must remember, you have a sacred charge. We Christians have the privilege to join you…. and I thank you most of all for being Jewish.”

At the May 27, 1999 Fleet Week Gala aboard the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum, the cardinal was presented with the Intrepid’s “Freedom Award” by Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig. In the presence of 1,000 uniformed and civilian guests, Secretary Danzig praised the Cardinal — who had been chief of chaplains for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps — “for reaching out to all — and in particular — for fighting anti-Semitism.”!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.