The Jewish Connection

The Jewish Connection

“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, borei p’ree hagafen. Amen.” That is, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.  Amen” 

Memorized at 12 years of age. How’s that? By attending Hebrew School at Temple Emanuel with my friends on Long Island. Not for long though, for when the Rabbi realized I was not a Jewish Bar Mitzva candidate and did not belong there, it was OUT!

“But his name is Baglinowitz,” shouted Bruce Klein, my across the street neighbor and baseball colleague.  

Oh well, I couldn’t be with my friends once a week. I had my own religious instruction day in preparation for confirmation at our Catholic parish on Wednesdays anyway.  

Over the many years since, it has been a life long connection to Judaism. It stemmed from those days of neighborhood baseball, punchball, slap ball, football, basketball with  all the kids on the block in our New York neighborhood. And, of course, throughout public elementary and high school after leaving Catholic School in Brooklyn. A predominantly Jewish community, there were a sprinkling of Italians and one Irish family within a few block area. Palm Beach County had nothing on us. Schools were just about closed every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Schools were so empty those days, it was study halls in every class for the rest of us. But we all recited the daily pledge of allegiance  and daily morning prayer together – “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence on Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country.”  

And our culture was this, well, for most of us: no drinking, no sex, respect your elders, teachers and police officers, anyone in authority. Yes, most of us in abidance until we went off to college. And, as far as I can remember, we friends of varying ethnicity, mostly Jewish in our neck of the woods, we all loved each other. It remained for me an ongoing connection. Best man at my Catholic wedding, Jewish; friends in college, mostly Italian and Jewish, neighbor friends in Florida and even in Minnesota, Jewish. I sang at a Miami Catholic university chorale [Barry University] every Easter and Christmas for 14 years. Half the members in the chorale were Jewish as was the lead singer. I could go on and on. The point is I believe there is an ongoing connection between this Italian American and Jewish Americans plus among the American population in general. Further, I believe there are not only geographic and ethnic attachments but a spiritual one as well.  

The spiritual connection begins with both Jews and Catholics sharing an understanding that all in the Bible is the word of God; that is, a divine revelation. And they also share a hope for a messianic era to come.

Pope Francis is quoted as stating, “While it is true that certain Christian beliefs are unacceptable to Judaism, and that the Church cannot refrain from proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Messiah, there exists as well a rich complementarity which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and help one another to mine the riches of God’s word. We can also share many ethical convictions and a common concern for justice and the development of people.” [Chappelle, 2015]

Not a theologian by a long shot and without researching in depth, I have always wondered about the claim by fundamentalists that you cannot get into heaven except through Jesus. I certainly have met many a Godly Jewish person throughout the years and many very helpful to me personally. There have been Jews I have known who have passed away, yet come to me in dreams and I assumed they were in heaven. My thinking about this is the Catholic belief that Jesus, a Jew, is the fulfillment of the Old Testament [Torah]. Being such, cannot Jews who live a Godly life be a fulfillment of the Old Testament as much as possible [though like the rest of us not divine] and thus earn merit for entering those gates? Can’t the mercy and graces of Jesus be received by Jews as well of other Christians because of it?  [Baglino, 2023, p. 192]

Catholicism owes its existence to Jesus and the experience of the history of Judaism. All of it is brought to us in the Old Testament and New Testament. I don’t know of one Catholic who does not support the State of Israel, or one Catholic today who has carried over anti-Semitism of the past. And I know many a Catholic who can’t wait to visit Israel and the Holy Land, potential wars not withstanding. True, there has been a long history of conflict between Catholics and Jews, but today I don’t see it, and the cooperative spirit is very much alive. On a personal note, rumor has it that the Baglino family was forced to convert from Judaism to Catholicism around the turn of the 19th century. This I suppose was a time of conflict. On another note, Jews brought Eggplant to Italy, my favorite Italian dish- melanzane parmigiana, a time of cooperation. And granted, the Church had a role in history perpetuating anti-Semitism, but that for sure has declined precipitously.  

In conclusion and returning to Pope Francis, he has further stated “Judaism is not to be considered simply as another religion; the Jews are instead our ‘elder brothers’ and our ‘fathers in faith’.” [Chappelle 2015]

+++

Sources:

Baglino, Michael J. “The Ongoing Prejudices: Anti Catholicism and Anti Semitism.” From Gramsci to Freud: 7 Anti Christian Philosophers Who Ruined America. New York: LT Publishing, 2023.   

Chappelle, Bill. “Catholics Should Not Try to Convert Jews.” Miami, FL. WLRN. Dec. 10, 2015

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by
Michael Baglino