The Jerusalem Post covered the posthumous awarding of two Jewish Rescuers Citations by B'nai B'rith International's World Center-Jerusalem.
■ YAD VASHEM frequently has ceremonies to award the title “Righteous Among the Nations” to non-Jews (or their closest living relatives) who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust period. It took many years before Yad Vashem expanded its rescue recognition to Jews who saved other Jews.
Recognizing such Jews was no problem for the B’nai B’rith World Center, which annually hosts a ceremony honoring the memories of Jews who saved other Jews, and since initiating such recognition in 2011 has honored 280 European Jews. Last week its Jewish Rescuers Citation was presented posthumously to Rabbi Nathan Cassuto, the chief rabbi of Florence, who during the war years headed his city’s Jewish underground, and Matilda Cassin, a member of the underground, whose members also included Christian clergy.
This accounted for the presence, at the presentation ceremony in Jerusalem’s Italian Synagogue, of Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Notwithstanding the vast improvement in relations between Catholics and Jews since the Second Vatican Council and the issuing of the Nostra Aetate and other declarations of esteem for Judeo-Christian teachings and for the Jewish people, representatives of the Catholic Church still feel a sense of embarrassment when discussing Catholic involvement in the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust. Pizzaballa even said as much.
There were numerous instances where Catholics – both clergy and laypeople – risked their lives to save Jews, but there are the controversial issues of pre-Holocaust teachings of the Church which cast Jews in an extremely negative light, coupled with a wide belief that Pope Pius XII did not speak loud enough or often enough in his criticism of Nazism, and did not do enough to save Jews. Evidence has surfaced in recent years that he did much more than people realize, but that he did it so discreetly that even the people he saved were unaware of the identity of their benefactor.
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