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Best Friends: The Rabbi & The Pope

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Argentine Rabbi who co-wrote “On Heaven & Earth” with his close friend Pope Francis. THIS IS WITHOUT DOUBT THE MUST-READ ITEM OF THE WEEK!



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The following story includes content from a CNN BLOG written by Mick Krever. 

One of Pope Francis’ dearest personal friends is the prominent Argentine Rabbi Abahram Skorka with whom he co-wrote the book: “On Heaven and Earth.” Pope Francis and Rabbi Abahram Skorka have known one-another for 15 years, since he was Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio.

Rabbi Skorka shares a concise description of what makes Francis’ papacy different from his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Ratzinger – and Skorka may be the most one person on the planet to have such insight.


Pope Francis “lives with his mind in heaven and with his feet on Earth,” Rabbi Skorka told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour last Wednesday. “And Ratzinger lived totally in heaven.”

Abraham Skorka, a prominent Argentine Rabbi, has had frank and open conversations with Pope Francis since he was Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires. Those discussions are the topic of a book written by both, “On Heaven and Earth.”

It all started over The Beautiful Game

Rabbi Skorka and Cardinal Bergoglio formed their friendship, the Rabbi said, over that most beloved of Argentine traditions: soccer.
9g-Rabbi & Pope hug“The beginning was through jokes,” Rabbi Skorka said. “But behind the jokes …” />“He told me, look, I receive this tradition, but I know this is not a dogma,” Rabbi Skorka told Amanpour. “This is just a tradition and maybe that in the future it could be changed.”

PIC LEFT: The 2010 LAUNCH of the English version of the book took the mesage of the co-authors global

“Don’t forget that he has had history of 2,000 years behind him,” he said. But “he has a very open mind in order to analyse all the things. For him, there is not a closed thing – even homosexuality, even abortion – to analyse.”

Their friendship sits on the shoulders of interfaith relations that have often been treated with deep scepticism, piqued most notably during World War II, and Jews’ questioning of whether Pope Pius XII could have done more to stem the atrocity.

Secret Vatican records of Nazi era to be opened?

 In the book, then as a Cardinal, Bergoglio seemed to stand behind those who want to open up the Vatican archives. Rabbi Skorka discusses this possibility with Amanpour in the interview.

“Let them be opened and let everything be cleared up,” Bergoglio said. “If they made a mistake in any aspect of this we would have to say, ‘We have erred.’ We don’t need to be scared of this – the truth as to be the goal.”

Rabbi Skorka said that Francis will surely “do what he said – that it has to be done.”

“It’s a [critique of] the Argentinian church,” Rabbi Skorka said. “Catholic priests were present in the places where people were tortured. And he criticized a lot this kind of priest.” 

Some have questioned Pope Francis’ own role during the war, and Rabbi Skorka broached the topic with his friend.



“He has a very critical point of view regarding his own attitude during that period, asking himself, ‘Did I do the utmost?’”

“But what we know now, very clear, that he hoped a lot of people – he saved a lot of people.”

On the role of women in the Church…

 Rabbi Skorka said he did not know what the Pope would change in the Church “in a pragmatic way,” for example about the role of women.

“But what I am really sure is that he will analyze one and thousand times what is possible to be changed. He will open the debate.”

It is undeniable, though, that the Pope has put forward a new face for the Catholic Church.

Since he ascended to the papacy, Rabbi Skorka said, Cardinal Bergoglio “laughs more.”

“He used to smile, but now very much often,” he said. “He laughs with a big laugh. And why? Because he knows that he must transmit – and it’s coming out from his heart – because he knows that he must transmit an image of hope, of hope through his laugh.”

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SA Jewish Report is looking for a journalist

The SA Jewish Report is looking for a journalist, who is passionate about and hungry for news and who writes both news and features beautifully.




The applicant must to be tech savvy, comfortable online, on social media and in a newsroom. The applicant must have at least five years’ experience as a journalist and a relevant degree. Please forward your CV and an introductory letter to the editor, Peta Krost Maunder on  

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On the wrong page at the wrong time




The SA Jewish Report wishes to apologise to Dr Yossi Unterslak, a specialist gynaecologist and reproductive medicine assistant at Vitalab, whose face and title was in an advert on the page three of our Rosh Hashanah edition this week. The advert just happened to be on the same page as “Johannesburg doctor guilty of unprofessional conduct”. I wish to place it on record that Dr Unterslak was on that page advertising his participation in Torah Talks and has absolutely nothing to do with the story about the doctor on the page.  The SA Jewish Report apologises to Dr Unterslak for any harm or unpleasantness that derived from the advert being on this page.  – Editor

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Jewish Guild Orchestra reaches out through sweet sound of music

A musical tour around the world was presented to residents of Golden Acres, Sandringham Gardens and members of Second Innings last Sunday by the Jewish Guild Orchestra.





Jewis Guild Orchestra

Professor Brian Buch who conducts the orchestra and is also its musical director, had his appreciative audience clamouring for more. The Jewish Guild Orchestra, although founded in 1944, has still been able to retain its fresh sound. It okays a wide range of light classical pieces and its repertoire last Sunday ranged from the operetta Gypsy Baron by Johan Strauss to the all-time Neapolitan favourite, O Sole Mio.

Expenses of the orchestra are met by its 35 members themselves; they derive no income from its activities. The orchestra was named after its original sponsor, the Johannesburg Jewish Guild which no longer exists. Its founder was the late Dr Solly Aronowsky who served as musical director for 46 years. Its current leader is Dr Bernard Caplan.

The orchestra provides support for amateur musicians, irrespective of race or religion, to develop their skills to perform in public and to enhance their appreciation of music. It also plays to audiences who would not otherwise have access to light classical music, such as residents of old aged homes, the Red Cross, Hospice and the Cancer Association.

“One of our objectives is to provide performances through which we are able to assist various charities or to promote music appreciation among scholars,” says Buch.

“We welcome new players,” says Buch. “We need female vocalists, string and brass players. We need players who are at grade 6 level.”

* For further information, contact Dr Buch on (012) 348-8653 or 071-633-0869

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