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This morning, Friday, May 26, 2017, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) was received in a private audience by the Holy Father Pope Francis at the Vatican. Rabbi Jacobs was at the Vatican as a leader of Religions for Peace, for their meeting on Ethics in Action 3: Migrants and Refugees.
The private one-to-one 20-minute meeting took place at the same desk in the same library in the Apostolic Palace as the meeting between Pope Francis and US President Donald Trump just two days earlier.
The Holy Father and Rabbi Jacobs discussed various themes relating to the promotion of peace and collaboration in the world through interreligious dialogue, assisting immigrants and refugees, and learning to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
The URJ is the largest and most diverse movement in Jewish life, reaching nearly 900 congregations and more than 1.5 million people.
Rabbi Jacobs said of the meeting:
“Pope Francis is one of humanity’s most compelling moral voices. I found him personally warm and thoroughly inspiring. I was honored to say to him that his leadership isn’t only for the Church but also for all humanity.
We discussed refugees and migrants, the focus of the powerful conference taking place through today at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. We shared our respective concerns about the US Administration’s approach to immigration in particular. I told him that I hoped that his meeting with President Trump would have an impact on that and other issues. I informed him about the Reform Jewish Movement’s work opposing the Administration’s current efforts to close the gates to refugees, including our endorsing yesterday's circuit court decision against the discriminatory ban, and that we will join with others to continue to oppose the presidential ban all the way to the Supreme Court.
I was deeply honored to have had the opportunity to tell Pope Francis how appreciative we are of his work on interfaith relations and cooperative endeavors for the common good. His words, actions and teachings on the poor, the refugee, the marginalized, on protecting our environment and God’s creations are an inspiration to ignite a world in deep need of leadership on these issues and compassion toward all. We also applaud his efforts to secure Middle East Peace based on a two-state solution that embraces Israel’s security and well-being as well as the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.
I said that there were painful chapters in the history of the Church and the Jewish people but that today’s chapter has moved from fear to love.
At the end he asked that we pray together. We stood, we held hands—he blessed me in Italian then I blessed him in Hebrew, with the ancient words of the Priestly Benediction. It will remain one of the most profoundly spiritual and memorable moments of my life.”
Rabbi Jacobs is at the Vatican for a world gathering of the group Religions for Peace, for their meeting on Ethics in Action 3: Migrants and Refugees. Rabbi Jacobs is a co-president of the group, along with other religious leaders from across the globe. Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath (z”l), one of Rabbi Jacobs' predecessors as President of the URJ, was a founder of Religions for Peace.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Rabbi Jacobs on Twitter with @URJPresident.