Cardinal Keeler Mourns Passing of Jewish Leader Mordecai Waxman

August 12, 2002 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (August 12, 2002) –- Cardinal William H. Keeler expressed sorrow at the death of Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, whom he called "a major force in the improvement of relations between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church worldwide."

Rabbi Waxman, 85, died August 10 in New York. He was a past president of the Synagogue Council of America and chair of the Interreligious Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative Judaism). He had been the Rabbi of Temple Israel in Great Neck for over 50 years.

"I join family, friends and congregants in mourning the passing of Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, a dear friend and a major force in the improvement of relations between the Jewish people and the Catholic Church worldwide," Cardinal Keeler said.

"At international meetings Rabbi Waxman was always a committed and articulate advocate of his own faith perspective," the Cardinal continued. "At the same time, he saw and enthusiastically helped others to see the Catholic Church's profoundly new and positive approach to Judaism beginning with the Second Vatican Council.

"In 1987, he spoke in Miami for the Jewish community in the United States in welcoming Pope John Paul II to this country, and he continued as a partner and leader in dialogue as long as his health permitted. Pope John Paul II recognized Rabbi Waxman's significant contribution to reconciliation by naming him a Knight Commander of Saint Gregory in 1998.

"May Rabbi Waxman's spirit and example continue to inspire us all," the Cardinal said.

Cardinal Keeler is the U.S. Bishops' Moderator for Catholic-Jewish Relations.

Also speaking of the life and achievements of Rabbi Waxman was Dr. Eugene Fisher of the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Dr. Fisher's eulogy for Rabbi Waxman).

According to Dr. Fisher, Rabbi Waxman's career, on both the national and international level, was virtually coterminus with the great developments in Catholic-Jewish relations since the Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

"In his passing, we mourn the loss of a mentor, guide, and not infrequent constructive goad to many of us in the Catholic as well as Jewish communities," Dr. Fisher said. "It is one of the great privileges of my life to have known Mordy and to have been able to call him a friend."

Dr. Fisher noted that Rabbi Waxman was involved in the academic dialogues in the late 1970's between the then Synagogue Council of America and the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs (BCEIA), and headed the Jewish delegations which met with Pope John Paul II, both at Castelgandolfo and in Miami. In 1987 Rabbi Waxman and Cardinal Keeler founded and became the first co-chairs of what is now an on-going twice yearly meeting between representatives of the National Council of Synagogues and the BCEIA.