Book Review: Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka’s Interfaith Dialogue

— by Jonathan Kremer

Interfaith dialogue is often a challenge. A participant may feel a need to be “politically correct,” to pull punches, or to make every effort to present their own religion in the best light possible. True dialogue enables participants to “lower the defenses, to open the doors of one’s home and to offer warmth,” in the words of Pope Francis, without compromising one’s identity.

The book On Heaven and Earth is a collection of uncompromising dialogues between then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a community rabbi and rector of the Conservative Jewish center Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires.

The conversations between Cardinal Bergoglio and Rabbi Skorka covered a wide range of subjects, including God, religious leadership, prayer, same-sex marriage, science and Argentine political history. They agreed on much: the arrogance of the atheist and the unquestioning believer, religious leaders as teachers and guides, and the dangers of fundamentalism. They even concurred — after a charged exchange — that the Vatican must open its archives, so that lingering questions about the Church’s actions during the Holocaust might be answered.
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The Kosher Table: Meatballs In Saffron Sauce

— by Viviana González De Marco-Schapiro

Today I would like to share a dish with you which brings us the flavors of the Argentinian kitchen. Argentinian cuisine is a fusion of European and Latin American flavors. My mother was a culinary instructor. Here is the recipe for her saffron meatballs, which originate in Spain. The saffron is left over from the Moorish rule over Spain, which began during the 8th century and lasted for 400 years.    

Full recipe after the jump.
Meatballs In Saffron Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lb. minced beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 Lb. potatoes
  • 4 oz. peas
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley and a little more for dusting
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 tbsp olive oil
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Flour
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. First of all let’s blanche the onion and garlic. Blanching is slightly cooking food in boiling water. In this way we will make the onion soften and our meatballs will have a homogeneous texture. Additionally, we’ll reduce slightly the flavor of garlic and onion, to give more subtleness to our meatball mix. So put the kettle on and when it boils add half the onion and one clove of garlic. Let it cook for 2 minutes, then drain and cool under cold running water. Drain again and set aside.
  2. Now we will be preparing the base of our sauce for meatballs. To do this we’ll heat the oil  in a pan and add the remaining onion, cut into thin strips, and  three cloves of garlic, peeled and very finely chopped. Add a teaspoon of salt and bay leaf. Simmer on a medium flame. Do not raise the temperature, so we’ll have time to prepare the meatballs. If you notice color darkening, add water occasionally, by the tablespoon.
  3. Prepare the mixture for the meatballs. Chop the blanched onion and garlic into very small pieces. Taking time to chop these ingredients well it is important, so that there are no large pieces to spoil the texture.
  4. Now form the meatballs. In a large bowl put the meat and add chopped parsley, onion, garlic, egg, 1 tablespoon bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon table salt and a few turns of pepper grinder. Use a fork to mix well for a long time so the mixture is rather homogeneous.
  5. Shape the meatballs: Sprinkle some flour on a plate and grab another clean plate. Moisten your hands (they do not have to be dripping, just moist). Spoon the meat mixture onto your hand. Shape your meatball. Place the meatball on the clean plate and repeat the process with all the meat until done. Heat the chicken stock, and if you’re not using a bouillon then concentrate it.
  6. Heat some frying oil (I used sunflower oil) in a small saucepan. Dip the meatballs in the flour. When the oil is hot, fry the meatballs in two batches until they get golden-brown. Place on a plate.
  7. Add a teaspoon of  flour  to the onion and garlic in the pan and toast for a minute while stirring well. Then add the white wine and turn up the heat. Add the meatballs to the pan. When the wine has reduced, add a little more chicken broth and allow to it heat for five more minutes.
  8. After five minutes, toast the saffron in a hot pan (with no oil) for a few seconds. Crush it in a mortar with a pestle to make a brightly colored dust. Take a spoonful of well-mixed hot sauce and pour into the pan (do this to remove all the ground saffron from the mortar before adding our salsa).
  9. Add the fresh peas, and let them cook for 10 minutes or a little longer, until the sauce has reduced and peas are tender. Taste, and correct the seasoning if necessary.
  10. In the meantime, you can fry potatoes to serve, sprinkled with some fresh parsley.

Viviana González De Marco-Schapiro is the creator of La Cocina de Viviana, where she teaches Argentinian cooking.

Argentina Meets With Iran In Troubling Renewal of Relationship

It is deeply troubling to see Argentine officials meeting with Iranian leaders for the second time this month in what could be a short-circuiting of justice, to discuss the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded 300.  

More after the jump.
The first meeting took place at the United Nations in New York; the Oct. 29 meeting at the United Nations in Geneva.

Iran, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, is widely acknowledged to be behind the AMIA attack. Officials from the top levels of the government were named by an Argentine prosecutor’s report as being responsible for the bombing. Interpol issued arrest warrants for the attack, but no arrests have been made.

At the time of the first meeting, we noted it was clear Tehran was using the encounter to advance its own interests in the region.

After the first meeting, Argentina stated it would negotiate with Iran to find a solution acceptable to both parties in the AMIA case. But such a political negotiation could violate Argentina’s own constitution, which calls for the extradition of those accused in the attack. Accordingly, no political negotiation can be done while there is a judicial investigation.

It has been 18 years, and still no one has ever been brought to justice in the gruesome attack. These meetings will only serve to bury any investigation in negotiations that are unlikely to result in any justice.

Iran has steadily infiltrated Latin America, creating strong and dangerous ties with Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador. These meetings Argentina is holding give undue legitimacy to a terror-sponsoring regime.

If Tehran were truly interested in aiding the investigation, it would surrender to Interpol or Argentine officials those named as responsible for the AMIA attack.

B’nai B’rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, is the oldest and most widely known Jewish humanitarian, human rights and advocacy organization.  For 169 years, since 1843, B’nai B’rith International has worked for Jewish unity, security, continuity and tolerance.  Visit www.bnaibrith.org.

Remembering Bomb Attack on Argentina’s Jewish Community

–by Sharon Bender

B’nai B’rith International once again marks the anniversary of the bomb attack on the Argentine-Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building. The July 18, 1994 terror attack on the heart of the Argentinean Jewish community killed 85 and wounded 300. Seventeen years later, no one has been brought to justice, though Iranian officials have been tied to the attack.

Iran’s ties to the attack are well known. Five years ago, an Argentine prosecutor detailed how top Iranian leaders including Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran’s president at the time, ordered Hezbollah to kill Jews in Buenos Aires.

This makes the embrace of Tehran by some of Argentina’s neighbors all the more troubling.

“Iran is more dangerous now than it was in 1994,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “AMIA should serve as a cautionary tale to the far too many Latin American nations seeking closer ties with Tehran.”

More after the jump.
The recent official visit to Bolivia of Iranian Minister of Defense Ahmad Vahidi, a suspect in the AMIA case, was a travesty. Vahidi has been on an Interpol wanted list for his connection with the horrendous attack. Soon after the start of the trip, Bolivia asked Vahidi to leave the country and the Bolivian government apologized to Argentina’s government, saying the Defense Ministry was not aware of Vahidi’s affiliation with the bombing.

“Way too much time has passed, but it’s not too late to bring the perpetrators to justice,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “We must stay vigilant. This act of terror cannot go unanswered.”

For 17 years, B’nai B’rith, with its deep ties throughout Latin America, has called for those responsible for this attack to be brought to justice.

Colombia will not recognize a unilateral Palestinian state, Santos assures Jewish leaders


— Dan Diker and Michael Thaidigsmann, WJC

Editor: Colombia is a bright spot in a continent with a sordid history of anti-Semitism. Many Nazis found refuge in South America after World War II. Now, all of the independent countries in South America except Colombia have recognized the Palestinian Authority as an independent state contrary to the Oslo Accords and in fact Argentina has offered suspend inquiries into attacks on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 and the Argentine Israeli Mutual Association in 1994 in exchange for better trade relations. Fortunately, Colombia has taken a firm stand in support of Israel.


Paraguay 2005-03-25
Venezuela 2009-04-27
Brazil 2010-12-01
Argentina 2010-12-04
Bolivia 2010-12-22
Ecuador 2010-12-24
Chile 2011-01-07
Guyana 2011-01-13
Peru 2011-01-24
Suriname 2011-02-01
Uruguay 2011-03-15

A high-level delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and its Latin American branch, led by WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, today met with the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón. The leaders thanked Santos for his support to the Jewish community and the State of Israel. Lauder told the Colombian president: “We value your friendship and courage for Israel and the Jewish people. We also appreciate that you have withstood pressure from fellow Latin American leaders to prematurely recognize a Palestinian state.” Santos assured the Jewish leaders that his government would stand firm on this issue. He said that as a matter of principle Colombia would not follow other governments in the region which had recently recognized a yet-to-be-established unilaterally declared Palestinian state. He emphasized that the only path to peace in the Middle East was through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Designate Dan Diker expressed gratitude for Colombia’s strong stance on this issue and said that “a return to the borders prior to 1967 would intensify the current instability across the Middle East region while posing a security threat to Israel by radical Islamists that also has ramifications for the wider world, including Latin America”.

During the meeting, the Colombian leader spoke warmly of his admiration for the Jewish people and for Israel’s achievement in the fields of high tech, specifically biotechnology and information technology. WJC President Lauder extended an invitation to the Colombian leader to give the keynote address at the meeting of the World Jewish Congress Governing Board in Jerusalem this coming June.

Latin American Jewish Congress President Jack Terpins expressed appreciation for Bogotá’s commitment in fighting the growing influence of the Iranian regime on the continent. “In Colombia, you know what horrible suffering terrorism inflicts on people. After the two deadly bomb attacks against the AMIA Center and the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires in the 1990s that were orchestrated by Iran we Jews know that extremists must be vigorously opposed. We hope that a consensus can be reached among political leaders here that currently, Tehran cannot be a partner for closer political or economic cooperation in any shape or form.”

Also present at the meeting at the presidential palace Casa de Nariño in Bogotá was the chairman of the WJC Governing Board, Eduardo Elsztain, who praised Santos as a man of truth and principle. The meeting also included senior representatives of the Colombian Jewish community.