Page 117 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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The National Committee for the Vatican Judaica Exhibition
was formed in order to coordinate the fund-raising necessary
for the exhibition. The Honorary Co-Chairmen at its head were
the Most Reverend Pio Laghi, Apostolic Pro-Nuncio, the Most
Reverend John L. May, of the U.S. Catholic Conference, and
Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, of the Union of American He­
brew Congregations. Two co-chairmen, one Jew and one Ro­
man Catholic, headed the Committee. They were Ambassador
Walter H. Annenberg and Admiral James D. Watkins.
Since it has limited expertise in museum matters, the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations arranged with the Center
for the Fine Arts, of Miami, that it prepare the exhibition, plan
its itinerary, and coordinate the editing of the catalogue. The
Center at Miami was a logical choice, especially since there was
limited lead time for the preparation owing to the desire to
have the exhibition coincide with Pope John Paul I I ’s visit to
the United States, which was scheduled to begin in Miami.
The exhibition’s arrival in the United States during the early
summer of 1987 was not at an auspicious time. The American
Jewish community, furious about the revelations of Kurt
Waldheim’s military service in the Wehrmacht during World
War II, was outraged by his reception by the Pope at the Vatican
that spring. Indeed, this Pope, who had been characterized as
the most personable (or charismatic) since John XXIII, had also
been seen as the least sensitive to issues relating to Jews.
The Pope was under criticism for his public remarks which
were perceived as ignoring or trivializing Jewish suffering du r­
ing the Shoah, as well as for his decision to beatify the apostate
Edith Stein as a Jewish martyr who witnessed her Roman Cath­
olic faith. Moreover, the Vatican’s consistant refusal to grant
diplomatic recognition to the State of Israel while simultane­
ously according Yassir Arafat the full diplomatic reception re­
served for a head of state exacerbated the situation. Such mat­
ters had aroused great concern in the American Jewish com­
Why then go ahead with such an exhibition? One reason is
that relations between the American Catholic and American
Jewish communities had never been better, the negative feeling
the American Jewish community had for this particular Pope