Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, 85, a rabbi prominent in the...

Deaths Elsewhere

August 15, 2002|By New York Times News Service

Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, 85, a rabbi prominent in the Conservative movement who in a notable speech in 1987 confronted the pope on the issues of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Israel, died Saturday at his home in Great Neck, N.Y.

Speaking on behalf of all organized American Jewry, Rabbi Waxman gave the speech in a Miami auditorium, with Pope John Paul II looking on. It came during the first stop of a papal visit to the United States.

"Greater attention needs to be paid to the Christian roots of anti-Semitism," he told the pope. He also called for the Vatican to open full diplomatic relations with Israel, something that came to pass in 1993, and he spoke about the "pain and anger" among many Jews over the pope's decision to meet with Kurt Waldheim, then president of Austria, who served during World War II in German army units that were implicated in the deportation of Jews in Greece and reprisals against partisans in Yugoslavia.

The pope responded with a speech that began "my dear Jewish brothers and sisters." He spoke of the "common heritage" of Catholics and Jews, and condemned the crimes of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Waxman was chairman then of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.

In response to his death, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore, liaison between American Roman Catholic bishops and the organized Jewish community, called him "a major force in the improvement of relations between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church worldwide."

He noted that the pope recognized Rabbi Waxman's contribution in 1998 by naming him a knight commander of St. Gregory the Great. He was the first rabbi and the fifth Jew to receive the honor.

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